I’m Back!

Hey Everyone! I just wanted to write a quick post to let you know I haven’t abandoned this blog! I’ve been out of town and dealing with some family stuff that has arisen. I am back, however, and ready to roll with some new content on its way. Thank you all for your support and for continuing to get the word out to your friends about my work here. It is greatly appreciated, and I look forward to putting up some new content over the weekend!

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A Call to Normalcy

My husband and I had huge plans. We announced to our family in the fall of 2010 that we were going to be leaving Denver in April to vagabond around the country. We were in a transition phase in life; the post college slump where you are scared to death of life not happening quick enough, but scared to death for it to actually start. We needed change and decided to experience the country while taking time to figure out what in the world we would do with our lives. We didn’t want to settle down, buy a house, or take on traditional jobs. We just wanted to experience life to the fullest with no ties to have to come back to Denver for. Just the open road, each other, a little money in our pockets, and good times waiting for us.

Well, I don’t have to tell you that plans change. If you haven’t figured that out yet, they do. In our 6-ish month waiting period of saving up money, waiting for our lease to be up, and spending last months with good friends, we changed. We didn’t want that time to be all for nothing, so we did something a little crazy. We left the youth ministry and church that were draining us spiritually and set out to find a church we could grow in. One week after leaving the youth ministry, we found our church. In that church, we found people that loved us, wanted to help us grow, and waited patiently for us to work through the bitterness we had found in our hearts towards the church. We found a community to do life with. We found our passion for ministry that had hidden underneath the lies we had started believing. We found what we had been looking for our whole three years in denver. And when we definitely weren’t looking for it, we found a reason to stay in Denver. As April got closer and closer, our reasons for going on the trip became smaller and smaller and we soon realized that our hearts would be in Denver the whole time if we left, where our lives were waiting.

This is a call to normalcy. Our call to normalcy. How many times do you read minimalist blogs that make it seem like you need to sell everything you own and hop on the next plane to live a great life? Or even just a simple one? I’m here to tell you it’s not true. Take that thinking and throw it out the window. I’m not saying people who live that way aren’t minimalists or that their way of life is wrong, but I am saying you can live the way I’m choosing to and still call it simple. My husband and I have been called to a life of relative normalcy compared to most minimalists. In the last month, we have decided to pare our trip down to a two week vacation to see the northwest and come back to normal jobs, a rented condo, and normalcy. We have been shown that the minimalist life can be lived in these situations. And not only is it possible, its amazing! It’s having a normal job, but only working part-time at that normal job so we can spend lots of time together adventuring in our city. It’s having deep, strong relationships with the people we are invested in simply because we are living life with them day in and day out. It’s watching my beautiful cousins grow up and them knowing us so well because we get to see them all the time. It’s keeping check of the things I own not because I am moving, but because I never want my stuff to own me. It’s thinking long term and planning for the future because I can’t do the kind of ministry God’s given me passion for if I’m always leaving. It’s being a weirdo and hopefully an influence in my own city to bring minimalism to Denver. This is the call to the radically “normal” life, and a call I’ve decided to embrace fully.

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Living Life as an Adventure

This was a completely spontaneous Anti-War protest we marched at. We thought we were just going to a concert, but ended up having an even more memorable experience!

Pocahontas has always been my favorite Disney Princess. Beyond the fact that I am part Native American and every little girl identifies with the princess they most look like, I love Pocahontas’ zest for life. I have always been that adventurer/dreamer and as a girl growing up, I related to her story so well. It was no surprise to my mother when I told her about my decision to move in with my father to see what kind of relationship could be rekindled just to see what happened. It was no surprise to my dad when after graduation, I packed up my little car and took off to Boston with hardly any money and knowing just my boyfriend purely because I knew I wanted to be there. And it was no surprise to my then fiance when I told him I wanted to spend forever with him just because I had decided it sounded great. Head first, no hands, all in…. I’ve always been that girl, much like the Disney version of Pocahontas.

However, life is much simpler these days. I’m no longer 18 and able to take off to anywhere, whenever. I have a husband, a dog, and a good job to think about. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t cultivate my true spirit of adventure in my life now. With every life phase that hits, I’ve kept the adventure alive and I think that’s made life so much better. As you know, I wholeheartedly believe that you don’t have to sell everything you own and move out of the country to be a minimalist and the same is true for living an adventurous life. So, here is how to cultivate this idea in life whether you travel a lot, have two weeks vacation a year, do or don’t have kids, are in retirement, or are in college.

  • Allow great times to happen, spontaneous or planned: Whether you plan for an awesome vacation zip-lining in the jungle of Costa Rice, or you have a spontaneous breakfast with your friends at Village Inn, good times are waiting to happen. You will easily find an adventure if you are open and looking for it. Also, make sure to plan for get-aways or small adventures around the year, preferably at times when you know you’ll need a break. Stay in a cabin for a weekend, go away for a backpacking trip with friends, or just plan an evening out doing things you wouldn’t normally do with your partner.
  • Learn to laugh… A lot: It’s hard to be spontaneous if you tend to be more stressed and tense. If you learn to let go and just enjoy the moment, you’ll find it’s much more fun to laugh and have a good time than worry about what’s coming next. Plus, it’s easier to handle wrong turns and forgetting debit cards when you can laugh at any situation and take it in stride.
  • Focus on community: Making time for your family and friends is the key to ensuring a good time. These are the people you’ve chosen to do life with and that speaks a lot about what their company means to you. That also means you need to think about the people in your life and decide who should stay and who just causes more stress. If you have friends that cause tension or are overly negative, you probably won’t have a lot of good times with them. Make sure the people you surround yourself with have those qualities you want in your own life, and then go have awesome adventures with them!
  • Change your plans: Someone once told me to always be “positive and flexible” and I’ve tried really hard to remember this. Whether it’s something as big as totaling your car or something as small as forgetting your wallet for a day, your reaction to the situation is everything. I’ve found that usually when my plans don’t work out, an adventure is waiting to happen. Leaving Boston one year to see family for the holidays, the plane I was on started to leak gas and we had to turn back around at the runway and head to the airport so mechanics could work on it. Later that night, we ended up using another plane that had finished it’s routes and got to Salt Lake City sometime in the early morning. Because all of us had missed our connecting flights, the airline shuttled us to a hotel next to the airport and put each of us up in our own room with free food, then shuttled us back to the airport for our flights that next day. Not only was I so glad that someone found the leak on our plane and I ended up making it to Idaho safely, but I also had a great time talking to new people and having my own little adventure.

Adventures don’t have to be crazy or extravagant to be fun. I’m seriously convinced that, just like most of the things I write about, it comes down to you. You being open to having a good time, you being willing to change, you allowing spontaneity, and you making the adventures happen.

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Minimalism Defined

I believe that minimalism is a lifestyle, a choice made that affects everything you do. You can’t do it half-way and you definitely cannot own so little without it affecting your heart and mind. That being said, I also know there are people out there unclear of what minimalism actually is. So, for anyone who is still confused, this post is for you. Here is minimalism defined.

This way of life almost always starts with frustration. Giving up an old way of life that has led to debt, emptiness, and a constant need for more and more. Frustration at having bought into the lies that said you needed to live a certain way to be happy. So, a decision is made. The two most common first steps are to rearrange your budget and declutter your house. Both are very important steps and necessary to helping declutter your mind, but both are also very surface level. You can get rid of a lot of things and save money in different areas in your budget and still be plagued with thoughts of not having enough.

If you choose to continue on the minimalist journey, this is where you start making the tough decisions. You scaled down your budget to the point where you no longer need the large salary or the long hours, so what do you do with the extra time and money? You got rid of so much stuff in your house that you start to feel like you might not need the 3,000 square foot home…. now what? You don’t come home to a life of distraction every night and you find yourself in a quiet(er) home, so how will you spend your evenings now? These questions are tough to ask, but choosing to live life differently isn’t something we do because it’s fun or easy. We do it for the amazing benefits and we hope they will make our lives that much better. All of these decisions eventually cause us to get to one point: building our lives around the necessities. And that is the point of minimalism.

It’s not about keeping track of how much we own or having money to travel all around the world. In fact, I’m convinced that I can live an amazing minimalist life right where I’m at in my apartment, with my husband, and with a full-time job. But it does answer the question that we are all answering with what we do with our lives: “What is most important to you?”. If living a life of freedom and investment in our families is important, than we get rid of things that bind us and we spend precious time with our families. If loving well is most important, than we spend our time loving those who aren’t traditionally loved in our society and we do it well. Minimalism is a bold statement that says if you spend all of your time on the work-spend treadmill, you aren’t living a great life. It’s a call to live a great life by investing in what really matters, the things that make our lives worth it, not the things we feel like we have to do. It’s finding a way to do that by living a smaller life that costs less to live and takes less time away from what we love. It starts with some surface level decisions and continues with life change.

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Free Resources You Need to Know About

When I first started getting into minimalism, I thought I was the only one who lived such a different life. My father-in-law emailed me an article from the New York Times and I discovered a whole online community of people who understood my life decisions and chose the same ones for their lives. This community of bloggers provided some amazing resources that challenged me, helped me refocus when I needed it, and brought some different perspectives. And the best part for a girl on a tight budget, a lot of these resources are free! In this post, I’d love to share with you the free books that I’ve found beneficial in the start of my journey.

Connect & Conquer: A Digital Guide by Mars Dorian

Mars Dorian of The World Needs You wrote this guide to inspire anyone looking to use networking to better their business. As a hairstylist by day and a blogger by night, networking is the life of both of my businesses, and I found this guide super helpful in reminding me of that. In our day in age, we have unlimited means available to us and this guide is the perfect tool to show you how to use those means. Another thing I loved about this guide is that it’s realistic. At the very beginning of the guide, Mars lets his readers know that he’s tried using every platform out there and that it’s much more beneficial to stick to one or two and completely rock those one or two. He then spends the rest of his time showing you how to do that practically and focusing on how to grow a business well by connecting on a friendship level with peers, by spreading community, and by listening more than speaking.

Small Way to Make a Big Difference by Raam Dev

Raam Dev is an incredible blogger who speaks on sustainability, changing the world through changing yourself, and minimalism at its core. He is a self-proclaimed “digital nomad” who’s desire to see a better world take shape shines through all of the words he types into a post. Small Ways is a compilation of advice from over 40 bloggers about topics such as recycling, taking time off, quieting your mind, and living consciously. The advice is practical and attainable and I found this book incredibly inspiring when I needed to be reminded of the good in the world.

Minimalist Health by Tammy Strobel

Tammy Strobel was the woman I first read about in that New York Times article, and the first blogger I started reading frequently. Her work is simple and easy to understand, yet profoundly deep and life changing. In Minimalist Health, she goes through several different categories such as food, clutter, addictions, television, and work to show you how to tweak the way you handle each category and live a healthy lifestyle. For each category, she has small micro actions for someone taking baby steps to consider. Some of her awesome micro actions include shopping at farmer’s markets, limiting time on the internet,and examining spending patterns. This is the book for you if you need small, practical tips for delving into the minimalist lifestyle in a healthful way.

Minimalist Freedom by Nina Yau

Minimalist Freedom is a manifesto written by the amazing Nina Yau, a minimalist nomad who quit her corporate job to travel the world. This book is for anyone who feels constrained by expectations to work the 9-5 lifestyle and have the house with the white picket fence. Nina has faced those pressures and walked away from the “corporate dream”, so she speaks from experience. This book is a push for those who daydream about living life their way, but can’t seem to make the next step. Nina is a fiercely passionate writer and Minimalist Freedom is her outlet for that passion.

Check out all of these free e-books and while your at these blogs, poke around a little bit. All of these writers are incredibly talented and like me, won’t write about what they haven’t experienced. And as always, please share these resources with a friend if they help you out!

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Experience to Experience

The temptation for a minimalist is to live life to the extreme. Become location independent, travel all over the world with no plans, ditch those who become negative influences in your journey. None of these things are bad, and in fact, people like Everett Bogue, Dusti Arab, and Nina Yau are having great adventures through all of these ideas. But they do become a bad thing for you when you start looking to the next big adventure and stop focusing on the now, the present life. When we leave our old lives behind and ditch the commercialism and excessive living, we have to be careful to leave the whole mindset behind entirely. If we carry this “next big thing” mentality into our new way of life, we diminish the quality of life we could have now.

My life is quite different than other minimalist’s I’ve met. I’m not location independent, though I only own enough that I could be. I don’t plan on packing up my bags and just going to travel wherever and whenever I feel like it, though I love adventuring and take plenty of cool trips throughout the year. And probably the most important difference is that I’m married to a man who’s pursuing a career in full-time ministry, meaning I will choose to stay in one place for a long time once we find a job for him. The hardest issue I face is learning to live in the moment, in the in between times when I start to feel restless.

How I’ve learned to deal is by making the most of my “in between” time. Last month, we took a weekend trip to a yurt in the mountains of Colorado. In October, we drove to Idaho to visit family for a week. In March, I will go with my girlfriends to the mountains for a weekend. And instead of just focusing on and daydreaming about what we’ll be doing then, I’m loving my life now. I’m writing and reading a lot, building some great friendships, and investing crucial time in my marriage. I’m actually happy and growing in this time. And I believe it is key to the way I live my life. If I was always focused on what adventure we’d go on next or actually living location independently, it’d be really hard for me to grow as a person. I need seasons in life of waiting and patience and being grounded to make the most of this life. And I think you do, too.

When I was 18 and moved to Boston with no money, I learned a lot about how far I could go in life. When my new husband and I moved to Colorado a month after our wedding on a whim, we grew a lot as a couple. And as awesome and thrilling as those big decisions were, my times of being rooted in those places and learning to grow in the “boring” phases were just as crucial to my development as a person. So while the temptation is to keep going, travel to one more country, and pack everything up and replant somewhere again, I would challenge you to stay put for a minute and see what happens. You don’t have to stay there forever, but you just might find you like the “boring, in between” phases of life!

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Interview with Nina Yau

Courtesy of Nina Yau

Nina Yau is the blogger behind Castles in the Air and the author of the Radical Minimalist, Minimalist Freedom, and Inspirations for the Radical Minimalist. She is an incredibly talented writer. Fierce, intelligent, and a very sweet person, she is shaping the movement of minimalism in a great way. In November, she quit her day job in the corporate world and now she is traveling all over the world to Taiwan, Chile, Thailand, Portland, Los Angeles, and who knows where else. What I really love about Nina that shines through in her writing is her unapologetic love for life and experiencing it to the fullest and I know that’s what you’ll see in this interview! Enjoy!

Kate: Congratulations on quitting the daily grind in November! Tell me how it felt to finally say goodbye to the corporate world, and if you had any fears about doing so?
Nina: Thanks, Kate! Words cannot express the most liberating feeling of all when I stepped out the door on my last day at work: freedom. Unleashed, piercing freedom to do what I love, not what I hate.
And to be honest, I got over most of my fears before I took the leap of faith. These fears include condemnation, ridicule, financial concerns and rejection. And even if I still have traces of such fears, it is only through the courageous act of taking responsibility for my life that I am able to continue on in the face of adversity and challenges, both external and internal.
I’ve hit rock bottom and know what it means to feel desolate, used up, lifeless and hopeless. If I can come out of that, I knew I could do anything. Nothing and no one can stop me.
Kate: In your recent series on Focus, you speak about finding yourself through eliminating the unnecessary. What kinds of things (besides your job) did you find yourself eliminating in your journey?
Nina: Besides my corporate job, I eliminated useless activities or commitments that did not provide value in my life. I’d rather be productive than busy. If that means I only tackle one project at a time — but which gives me supreme focus and intent purpose — then so be it.
Mediocrity is not for the driven. Steadfast determination and audacity is.
Kate: When did you decide to leap into minimalism and were there any doubts about the lifestyle?
Nina: I begun my minimalist journey in the summer of 2008 and have never looked back to my hoarding and consumerist days since. I’ve never experienced doubt due to living a simple life, only liberation.
Kate: You’ve decided to travel quite a bit in the next few months. My husband and I are also gearing up for a big adventure and I can only imagine how excited you are! Tell me about your decision to leave, and how you decided where to be, and how to plan for such a big change.
Nina: I’ve always wanted to live in Taiwan (I’m half Taiwanese and half Cantonese) but my corporate life would not allow for such an opportunity. So instead of trying to find a way around it or wait for that perfect time (hint: there is no such thing as the perfect time; the time is now), I just created the opportunity myself.
It took me just a few short months from the initial decision to live in Taiwan to actually going there. In the meantime, I saved up money (a minimalist life helps to curb the overhead) before quitting my job, applied for my Taiwan passport, got all my papers and necessities in order, made housing arrangements, then booked the flight. Done.
Kate: How have your family and friends reacted to your lifestyle change?
Nina: Surprise. Amusement. Fascination. Envy.
Many say, “You’re young, Nina. You’re able to do it now with no responsibilities back home.” Or, “Wow. I am so incredibly jealous. I wish I can do what you do.”
To these statements, my response is it is not a matter of age. It is not a matter of whether or not I have responsibilities at home. It is not a matter of just wishing for something.
These are superfluous.
It is a matter of courage and looking fear in the eye. To live boldly and vicariously for yourself. No one else will so you must.
Kate: Congratulations on a kick ass year! You were able to accomplish so much! What are some of your goals for this coming year?
Nina: This year, and every year, my only hope is to always live life with no regrets. To not take my days on Earth for granted and to make the most of my own human potential.
I am currently working on a third book project that I believe will be incredibly fun and inspiring. I’m very excited about it!
Kate: I loved your guest post, The Fragile and Flawed Nature of a Minimalist’s Life, for Tammy Strobel’s blog, RowdyKittens.com! It was truly inspiring, and something all minimalist’s deal with. In your post, you say “it’s dangerous to be ignorant of your shortcomings as well as your own strengths”. What are your shortcomings and strengths?
Nina: I have a tendency towards wanting a complete, polished finished product. Most of the time, this product is me. Other times, it’s my writing. The way I dress or speak. But I need to go easy on myself at times. I am often my own worst enemy yet my own best ally.
My strengths include courage, tenacity, a healthy view on risk-taking and challenges, the ability to adapt and learn quickly, and listening to my intuition. All these characteristics have served me well but they did not come about easily. Many were cultivated my entire life, shaped along the way by my life experiences, culture, self-education and experimentation.
Kate: You’ve seen huge growth in the last few months with your support base. Why do you think you’ve succeeded so far above the status quo, and what advice would you give to those new to the movement?
Nina: I’m ecstatic with my growing support base and am truly grateful. When I think about how far I’ve come in just a matter of a few months, I quietly reflect upon how I did not get to where I’m at without experiencing my lowest lows and my highest highs.
To those who are new to the minimalist movement, I say when in doubt, listen to yourself and don’t be afraid to try new things. There will be countless best practices, advice, suggestions, and ways to do things. But in the end, it is your life we’re talking about. And if you are not happy with where you’re at, you need to be bold and embrace change. Take responsibility for your life. And more importantly, take action.
Kate: What resources have you found helpful in your journey?
Nina: In my journey of powerful transformation and explosive self-growth, I’ve found the following books highly inspirational and insightful to me:
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
The Art of Living by Epictetus
Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
I’ve also been watching more TED talks recently in order to stay abreast of dynamic issues that certainly concerns us, some more than others.
Kate: Is there anything else you’d like my readers to hear?
Nina: Live life courageously and according to your own terms. It’s too short for regrets and what if’s.
Thank you so much, Nina! I look forward to reading about your adventures on Castles in the Air, and good luck!
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