SLR 080: Create A Living Masterpiece With Intention

Simple Life Reboot“A great artist can paint a great picture on a small canvas.” – Charles Dudley Warner

What does your life canvas look like?

Are you filling up your canvas quickly, with an array of colors assembled as an afterthought, or are you painting with intention?

When we act with intention, we exhibit a higher purpose, but does this mean we automatically produce a beautiful canvas, a beautiful life?

The beauty of your life is not for me, or anyone else, to define. You are a beautiful creation just as you are, right now.  No addition or subtraction can make you any less remarkable.  But…

The Life You Create Is Up To You

By taking certain actions, we determine certain outcomes.

The part of our lives that creates the beautiful brush strokes comes about every day through the deep love and caring we exhibit for one another.

By listening, spending time with, and caring for others, about their loves, their concerns, their hopes, their fears, and their dreams, we carefully and lovingly apply the paint across our canvas, and encourage others in creating a beautiful canvas of their own.

“The colors live a remarkable life of their own after they have been applied to the canvas.” – Edward Munch

Make It A Beautiful Life

Place the colors lovingly on your canvas, with intention, and your painting will flourish before the eye in brilliant splendor.

Love and care for others, with intention, and in the end you will produce a masterpiece, unique and unparalleled in history.

“My philosophy is that I’m an artist.  I perform an art not with a paint brush or a camera.  I perform with bodily movement.  Instead of exhibiting my art in a museum or a book or on a canvas, I exhibit my art in front of the multitudes.” – Steve Prefontaine


If you enjoyed this post,  please see Beautiful By Design and Your Life Depends on Your Creativity.


Originally posted on


SLR 079: Unmasking Our Fears About Essentialism and Simplicity

Simple Life RebootFear is deceptive. It often masquerades as something else, fooling us into believing an outright lie or otherwise thwarting our ability to make lasting positive change.

Far too many of us yearn to reboot our lives into ones of greater simplicity, but we are stopped short by fears we cannot bring ourselves to face.

Essentialism calls us to relinquish our armor of possessions and busyness. Unfortunately, such leaves us feeling vulnerable to unacceptable loss.  Bowing to fear, we hang on to the armor and forfeit what would have been a more abundant, joy filled life.


The goal of this post is to cut deeply into those noxious hidden emotional pockets. It’s only when we acknowledge our fears and contributing shortcomings,  that we can undergo the necessary surgery to heal and move forward.

Disclaimer and  Explanation

Many of the following articulations may seem overly harsh.  The list is not meant to discourage or condemn,  but rather to expose the full fear spectrum as it might relate in some degree to  us.  Also, this list is for personal reflection and application only. It is not properly imposed on others. Accordingly, the references are in the first person.  Finally, the term “stuff” is used as shorthand to comprehensively describe property, activities and overload of any nature.

So, without further ado…  fears hindering our ability to edit our “stuff”  so as to lead a simpler life include:

1.   Fear of Engagement.  Developing a genuine connection with people is costly and time-consuming. Focusing on my stuff permits me to limit my engagement with people.

2.   Fear of “Oblivion” or Lack of Significance.  Like Augustus Waters, a cancer patient in the novel “A Fault in Our Stars“,  my greatest fear is “oblivion”.  I am afraid of having no significance. My stuff is evidence that I exist and that I have an impact.

3.   Fear of  Missing Out or of Emptiness.  I cannot bear emptiness, empty space, or potentially missing out on anything. Besides, I’m sure the next thing will finally satisfy me and fill that nagging void.

4.   Fear of Being Overlooked or Underappreciated.  I crave recognition. I fear that people will lose interest in me. My stuff demonstrates my accomplishments,  skills, sophistication,  and worth to the world.  How can people appreciate who I am if I have no stuff to display?

5.   Fear of  Settling or Mediocrity.  I do not want to be like the fox in Aesop’s fable “Fox and the Grapes”  -pretending to despise “stuff” when the truth is that I deeply desire the stuff but cannot attain or maintain it.  If I “settle” for just the essentials, it will only prove that I lack ambition, work ethic and the ability to achieve.

6.   Fear of Lack of Control.  I fear letting go.  I need my old stuff to keep a connection to the past.  I need my current stuff to protect me against the uncertainties of the future.  Stated differently,  I must hang on to stuff  “just because” for my past and “just-in-case” for my future.  It’s the only part of life over which I have control.


If any of the above apply to you,  please do not  “feel the fear and do it anyway“.   Making major life edits before you have worked through significant fear is reckless.  The important takeaway is to commit to not being held captive by fear.  If you determine that living a life of greater simplicity and margin is best for you,  but are unable to act due to fear,  please consider seeking guidance from clergy or counselor. You are precious. Your life is precious.  The effort is worth it.


Do you have any suggestions?   What applicable fears did I omit or mischaracterize?  Please share in the comments section.


If you enjoyed this post,  please see  “What Are You Afraid Of ?”   and   “But What Will People Think?”


Originally posted at

SLR 078: Are You “in Control”? Try the Clutter Experiment!

Simple Life Reboot“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

When Sheryl and I moved from our large colonial home to smaller accommodations next door, we found ourselves faced with the necessity of reducing our possessions.  After a couple of moving sales and multiple trips to charities, we had sold or given away about 85% of our belongings.

What we did not expect from the process was the resulting feeling of self-determination and liberation.  But why?  What was it about the stuff we had accumulated around us, that over time, had begun to hold us captive?


According to psychologists, excessive clutter can be caused by or can cause flawed thinking.

Clutter can also be a symptom of seeking to control our environment.  Having more stuff sometimes gives us the false sense of having more options so as to have greater control over future events.

If you doubt this,  please consider:  How many of us have hung onto an inconvenient, unused item believing that “I might need this someday,” or “This might be worth something someday?”

According to Dr. Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y., a healthy approach to letting go of unneeded items is to substitute the fearful thought with intentional action that might benefit another,  as “Somebody else could use this now, so I will give it away.”

What we discover is that retaining the unused item does not give us control or well-being, but rather hanging on to the item holds us in the grip of burden, regret, shame or fear.  In contrast,  letting go of an item to benefit another gives us a sense of  self-mastery,  greater control over our environment, and improved well-being.

If you want to find out if this is true for you,  please try the following experiment:

Clutter Experiment

1)  Start becoming aware of the things around you that do not add to your life.  These may be items you have not paid attention to or used in the past 3 months.

2)  Start placing these items in a box, one by one, as you become aware of them.

3)  Discover over time how many of the items you retrieve from the box to use.

4)  After some period of time, sell, donate or discard the items in the box you have not retrieved.

5)  Then,  please report what you discover to your loved ones, and/or to us here at Simple Life Reboot.

Note:  Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists) tackled this problem in reverse order.  He placed virtually every item in his apartment in boxes.  When he needed an item, he would retrieve it. Check out the moving TEDx talk to hear the full story.


Originally posted on


SLR 076: A Shout Out for SimpleREV 2014!

Simple Life Reboot

Joshua Becker delivers opening remarks. Joel Zaslofsky and Dan & Vanessa Hayes in background, front row.

Having just returned from Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A.  a heartfelt “THANK YOU!” to Joel Zaslofsky and Dan Hayes for putting together the first ever SimpleREV conference where folks from around the world came together to share stories and discuss how the simplicity/minimalism movement is changing lives and communities.

Sheryl and I were honored to speak.  We told our story of how we came to realize in May of 2013 that we needed to move from a life of chasing after more stuff, to a life enriched by quality experiences and deeper relationships.  Even though we had a great time telling our story at SimpleREV,  we were even more thrilled and inspired by others’ stories.

One of the many takeaways from the conference was this:  people in this simplicity/minimalism movement are well grounded folks seeking to serve others.  The spirit and passion conveyed by attendees was tempered only by their insight and wisdom.

Nobody embraces the simplicity/minimalism movement without having pondered the most basic and critically important questions regarding what makes life meaningful.  People, not things.

Bring simplicity folks together at a conference in a friendly city like Minneapolis, and what you get is several days of unforgettable stories, inspiration and long lasting friendships.

We were so honored to participate!

Again, thanks Joel and Dan!

And thanks to all the volunteers that made this great event possible!


Originally posted on

SLR 075: 5 Proven Strategies to Crush the “Sophomore Slump” of Lifestyle Design

Simple Life RebootHave you had this experience?  You start out strong, buoyed by the excitement of a new challenge and the promise of better things to come.  Then,  somehow,  as you move beyond the initial phase,  the load intensifies, progress slows and you lose some degree of confidence in the attainability, if not the desirability, of the objective.

It can happen to the best students, athletes and artists,  and it can certainly happen to those of us seeking to increase margin, de-clutter and otherwise simplify or “re-boot” our lives.

Instead of beating ourselves up,  we need to recognize a “slump” for what it is – a complication common to many passionate achievers that can be temporary or permanent,  depending upon our response.

So how do we make sure the “slump” is only a temporary drag?

Employing the following 5 tactics is key:


Awareness is our best defense. If we can unmask perceived apathy, fatigue, confusion, failure, or disillusionment as nothing more than hallmarks of a “slump“,  these feelings lose their hold on us.  Not only can we continue,  but in the very act of continuing, we strengthen our ‘overcomers’ muscle and become better equipped for the next challenge.


We need to let go of any hidden hope that the road to lasting positive change is simple, easy or fast. Living intentionally is a lifelong process of growth, and foundation building is not without its complications. We need to give ourselves permission to stumble and travel slowly at times.  The critical element is to keep going.  Period.


Experiment and try different approaches.  If a routine flounders,  try another.  Focus and commitment is demonstrated by retaining the objective, not by throwing oneself against a wall of personally ineffective or stale processes.


Isolation is jet fuel for a “slump“.   Starve a “slump” by reconnecting with others in the community.   Attend in-person lifestyle design events, conferences, talks, and meetups, if at all possible.   Participate in, or better yet host your own  online gatherings via Google hangouts, Skype, FaceTime, GoToMeeting, etc.


Recognize that significant progress may not be evident to you.   Seek out opportunities to measure progress.  Examples include “before and after” photos, journaling, and habit/objective tracker apps.   Reflecting upon the progress made can be a great encouragement.

BONUS … and,  as a bonus tactic for crushing a slump... contact us and we’ll cheer you on!   Your goal is worth it!  You can do it!  So,  keep going!


Originally posted on


SLR 074: Why Roughing It Can Be So Much Fun!

Simple Life RebootLike many, I spend my fair share of time and effort trying to avoid physical discomfort. An example would be my strong preference for a comfortable bed.  So, why do I fondly remember sleeping on that bumpy mattress jammed in the back of our car on that California trip?    (Read:  The Trip That Changed Everything!)

Maybe because life is an adventure, from beginning to end.  Those moments in life that offer less than comfortable circumstances, can also prove to amplify the experience and transform us if we let them.

Our family often jokes about “embracing the horror”.  This is our way of encouraging one another to accept an unpleasant condition for a greater purpose.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s a failure.  But – when it does work… it can be pure joy to experience.

The D.C. Downpour

In late summer 2008, we traveled to Washington, D.C., on a family vacation. The plan was to see as much of our nation’s capitol over three days,  then rent a car and head south to visit historic sites.

We took the subway from the airport to our rental.  Emerging from the subway, we walked 7 sketchy blocks to find the little house.  As we arrived, a huge thunderstorm broke.

We all scurried inside to escape the downpour. Within seconds, our second oldest son turned around and stepped back out into the rain.  We all stood watching, perplexed.

It didn’t take long before his younger brother ran out to join him.  After all, what’s a little rain on a warm summer day on the trip of a lifetime?  They wanted to experience it all, even the rain.


We all enjoy smooth sailing, but think about what might be gained if we were willing to embrace less comfortable circumstances.  Is a rough patch all that separates us from the life we seek to live?   (Read:  The Challenge to Change)

As we get older, many of us tend to avoid discomfort like the plague.  We perceive this as responsible, mature behavior.  But maybe there is something to be learned from those youngsters who were more concerned about the experience than the associated temporary discomfort.

Watching my sons cavort in that D.C. downpour spoke to me about my approach to life.  I decided to embrace the moment in all its fullness… so I did what any responsible father would do…. I joined them!Simple Life Reboot



Originally posted on



SLR 073: The Exquisite Beauty of Living Simply

Simple Life Reboot“It sure seems like you’re working pretty hard just to ‘simplify‘ your life”,  a somewhat skeptical friend observed.

He was, of course, right … though I did not want to admit it.

Fortunately, we both had other pressing commitments, otherwise I would have had to acknowledge that taking steps to simplify our life continues to be anything but a smooth or simple process.


In moments of doubt, it helps to reflect upon why a commitment to the essentials is worth the effort. The “why” can be summed up in one word,  “beauty”.  We are simplifying in order to live a beautiful life.



Leo Babauta sums it up this way:

“The point of simple living, for me, has got to be:

A soft place to land

A wide margin for error

Room to breathe

Lots of places to find baseline happiness in each and every day.”

Simple Life Reboot



It is slowing down and making the time to luxuriate in the smile of a loved one.   A shared moment.  A hearty, belly laugh.

It is contentment, gratitude and peace.

It is commitment to something greater than ourselves.



Simple Life Reboot



It is the clearing out of the useless things in our lives so as to focus on our priorities – our God, our loved ones, our potential.

It is personal weeding and pruning, so as to make room for the development and sharing of our unique gifts for the benefit of others.

It is the maximizing of our potential.   As stated by the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

In character, in manner, in style, in all the things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.


….  and that is a very beautiful life indeed.


Originally posted on


SLR 072: The 5 Essentials of Being Nimble

Simple Life RebootNimbleness is the ability to pivot, to adapt to new circumstances and keep moving.  It is achieved, primarily, through the creation of margin in our lives.

In this fast-paced, unpredictable world, our ability to remain calm, constant, and in control is in direct proportion to the resources and options we can muster at any given time.

So, to be nimble, create margin in your life in the following 5 essential areas:

1)    Financial margin

Financial margin occurs when you can pay all of your monthly obligations and still have funds left over to put towards long-term goals, including the all-important emergency fund (a savings account built up as quickly as you can reasonably accomplish – the equivalent of 3 months of income – with the goal being at least 6 months set aside).

Having financial margin is a liberating thing!  But achieving it is not always easy.

Far too many of us have saddled ourselves with homes, possessions and other obligations which are greater than what we need or perhaps, can afford.   While they might seem like a desirable possession, they can become more of a burden than a blessing.

The good news! 

Financial margin is possible!  Getting out of the habit of overspending  is achievable!  It may take some time, but you can begin making progress TODAY.

For information on what options are available, we encourage you check out   We like Dave’s philosophy, his approach, and his practical advice.  We get nothing from you going to his site, except the satisfaction that we have steered you to a resource that changes lives.

Addressing the problem of financial margin is a MUST in order to become nimble.  For too many people, a big mortgage or student debt may be the main culprit, but other problem areas can exist,  like eating out too often, or buying items we don’t really need.  These things sap our finances, time and energy.  Many of us spend money on stuff that makes us feel better short-term. It is a temporary salve we apply to the worry, pain, and stress we feel.  It’s not a fun place to be, but we don’t have to accept it as a permanent condition.  Once we recognize the problem, and that there is a clear way out, it is only a matter of time – we WILL muster the willpower to extract ourselves from the overspending prison we’ve constructed for ourselves.

DO IT…for yourself, and for your family!
2.  Time Margin

Simply stated, time margin occurs by limiting obligations and by reducing activities that are not constructive or restorative.

For many of us, debt determines our workload.  Working longer hours may be taken on to pay down debt. Unfortunately, what often happens is that as we earn more, we spend more, defeating the original purpose of working the increased hours.

To achieve time margin, we must have the ability to easily pay our monthly obligations without overworking. 

Lower your monthly obligations until the above-mentioned condition becomes true. Then, you will have more resources for the things that matter most.

3)    Energy margin

Our bodies are biological engines.  Understanding the mechanics of these miraculous machines informs us as to why we might be low on energy, and what we must do to generate more.

If you are like most people, your energy reserves are constantly running down.  Building an energy reserve can be a challenge.  We can create an energy reserve by working on 5 key areas:  sleep, fuel, muscle strength/endurance, core endurance, and metabolism.

Sleep – Far too many people skimp on sleep in order to get in some “play” time.  We seek distraction from the day’s fatigue.  But increasingly, we sacrifice sleep to get our distraction fix.  We then end up even more fatigued and  unable to perform well, often needing to work longer hours to accomplish the same work.  The vicious cycle then repeats.  Staying up late also leads to a more sedentary lifestyle as we become more tired and sleep deprived.  We can also put on weight when we eat a second meal late at night before we finally go to bed, or snack during the day to “prop” us up when feeling short on energy.

Fuel – Many of us fail to eat nourishing food, whether due to fatigue, time pressures, or due to a short-term craving.  In addition, we routinely trade the time it takes to prepare healthy food for a diversionary activity, necessitating the consumption of something “easy”.  Sheryl and I have both struggled with these challenges.  But what we have found is that with a small amount of effort, and a modicum of planning, preparing and eating a good meal is possible.  Our taste buds and habits adapt quicker than one might think.  And when we stop dumping garbage into our engines, we begin to see and feel the results – a contented body happily purring along.  Take the time and effort to put high-quality fuel into your engine, and enjoy new-found energy!

Muscle Strength/Endurance/Core/Metabolism – Our bodies achieve the greatest health and balance doing physical work.  Without regular exercise, our muscles shrink in size, strength and endurance.

I often imagine my body responding like electrons do as they move between levels.  Electrons orbit the nucleus, and only exist in incremental energy states, or levels.  The higher the energy input to the atom, the more levels the electrons jump.  But the electrons can also act rather “resistant” in that they really don’t like to get excited.  After reaching the higher energy state, they soon drop back down to the lower level where they started, unless some additional energy influx occurs.

Muscles reach higher levels of potential in much the same way.  The more energy we put in, the stronger they become.  But muscles are not electrons, and can only strengthen so fast. The energy we apply to them, the load, the reps, the sets, must increase or intensify in small increments over time.  If our muscles never get worked, they remain in their lowest potential state, requiring little input of energy to operate.  But in this lower energy state, they never demonstrate their extraordinary potential.

To achieve energy margin, we must build up our body’s reserves by strengthening our muscle potential.  If we do this, our body is prepared to walk a long distance,  lift a heavy load, or engage in physical work or play, as circumstances arise.

4)    Learning margin

When under stress, whether it be financial, time related, or any number of circumstances we face on a daily basis, we tend to function in survival mode.  Under stress we become careful, reactive, and perhaps fearful.  To be open to learning new things, we must feel safe and secure.  Creating margin in our lives affords us the time, and the safety, that permits us to read, study, and absorb new  knowledge.  With margin, we thrive, and enjoy virtuous cycles of growth, satisfaction and higher capacity to learn.

5)    Emotional margin

When we lack margin in the 4 essential areas listed above,  we experience a loss of personal power.  We might even feel out of control, beset or even desperate.  This state can eventually lead to emotional debilitation and an inability to enjoy relationships and experiences.  We may also become isolated and emotionally numb.

When we create margin in these areas, however, particularly with finances, we can enjoy the moment and envision a better tomorrow. We experience new possibilities and have a greater capacity for generosity and thankfulness.  We feel in control, that we are making progress.  In this environment of having margin, we become nimble.

The Power of Nimble

When we foster the 5 essentials of being nimble, our relationships thrive, because we are safer and more secure.  We are no longer in survival mode, but rather in flourish mode.

Now, that’s true power…the ability to meet the challenges of life and make a positive difference in the lives of those we love.


Originally posted on



SLR 071: The Value of Nimble

Simple Life RebootThe oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
–H.P. Lovecraft

Change is something people have always resisted. It’s something we fear and try to avoid, even knowing it is inevitable, part of life, itself.

Today, change is occurring at a pace never before seen in history, making it virtually impossible to predict the future. Whether it’s the work we do, the products we buy or produce, or the laws we rely upon, the life we lead increasingly resembles a Picasso painting rather than a paint-by-numbers.

It seems we have created a world of disruptive innovation, a term coined by Clayton M. Christensen, in his book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma”.

Disruptive Innovation:  A process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.

And while such an economy is dynamic and exciting, it seems no sector is safe, not lawyers, doctors, accountants, or taxi drivers. While change has always been part of our economy, creating new products, new companies being formed, the difference, now, is that the speed at which products, companies, and even whole sectors, are displaced, is outstripping our capacity to react and to cope.

So, what is the solution?

Our ability to adapt, to pivot quickly when circumstances dictate, has never been more needed than it is today.

Consider what mind scientist John Medina says about human history and our ability to adapt:

“How, then, did we go from such a wobbly, fragile minority population to a staggering tide of humanity 7 billion strong and growing? There is only one way. You give up on stability. You don’t try to beat back the changes. You begin not to care about consistency within a given habitat, because such consistency isn’t an option. You adapt to variation itself.”

Being Nimble

We believe that personal and financial nimbleness is a key factor in determining to what degree we retain control over our circumstances, and still maintain the level of safety and security we desire.

Nimbleness occurs when we have fewer physical, emotional, and financial obligations, weighing us down, when we are able to pivot and keep moving without losing momentum and power. When we have the time and inclination to learn, to think, and to grow.

As a practical matter, being nimble looks like this.

The 10 Qualities of Being Nimble

1)    Financial margin
2)    Time margin
3)    Energy margin
4)    Learning margin
5)    Career margin
6)    Family margin
7)    Living-Space margin
8)    Physical margin
9)    Emotional margin
10) Vocational margin

In our list, financial margin comes first, because without it, the other goals become more difficult to achieve. With financial margin, however, the other qualities become easier to reach.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by life, by debt, by the sheer speed at which the world is changing, you are not alone. We believe the steps we can take to become happier and more adaptable in this environment, includes understanding and adopting the 10 qualities of being nimble.


Originally posted on

SLR 070: 3 Things to Stop Spending Time On

Simple Life RebootMoney is not the prime asset in life. Time is.”  Unknown

Far too often we fail to appreciate the preciousness of time. Unlike other resources,  it is irreplaceable.  Nonetheless,   we tend to operate in default mode, either rushing about or coasting along,  giving very little thought to how spending time doing “X” may well preclude us from ever doing “Y”.

It’s not about time, it’s about choices. How are  you spending your choices?”  Beverly Adamo

In order to make the most of our limited time,  we need to stop and ask ourselves, “What ‘time-wasters’ can I eliminate, or at least reduce, so as to have more time and energy for that which matters most?”    It’s a harder decision than we might realize or be willing to make.  For instance,  I keep pretending that I can do it all in the desperate hope that I won’t have to cut one of my indulgences … but the clock ticks on.

I needed help identifying major time wasting offenses. So,  I turned to the sages.  I found the following quotes,  in no particular order, to be helpful and encouraging:



“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” – Stephen McCranie

“Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.” –  John Wooden

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius



“If plan ‘A’  fails – remember you have 25 letters left.” – Chris Guillebeau

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” – Les Brown

“Worry is a misuse of imagination.” –  Dan Zadra

“Identify your problems but give your power and energy to solutions.” – Tony Robbins

“Anxiety is a daily statement to God saying, ‘I don’t think you have my best interest in mind.'” – Tim Keller



“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks.”  – Marcus Aurelius

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

“Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Wishing you were someone else, kind of defeats God’s purpose of creating you.” – Unknown

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs

… and if you have been spending time on the above, remember,

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” – Michael Altshuler


Originally posted on