Monthly Archives: October 2013

Are We Gratitudinally-Challenged?

Are We Gratitudinally Challenged?

How’s your attitude of gratitude these days?

Are you brimming with positivity at the thought of another Monday morning commute? Simply thrilled that you are blessed by mountainous piles of laundry? Endlessly joy-bound by the dozens of toys that clutter your child’s bed? Awestruck at the good fortune of being allowed to pay your phone bill?

Probably not.

Well, I know I’m not, anyway.

Until I think about it like this:

  • a Monday morning commute means a job to go to.
  • mountains of laundry means a way to wash dirty clothes and clean clothes to wear.
  • toys for your children mean people love them and want to demonstrate that.
  • paying for your phone bill means you have money to do so and a phone to use.

How annoyingly sugar-coated, right? Trust me, even I am rolling my eyes here as I write that list. In fact, I thought long and hard before publishing this post. After all – you don’t need me to tell you how lucky you are to have a phone bill, or a job you don’t love.

But this is how gratitude works. It’s not just a matter of being grateful for the beautiful things. It’s quite easy to be grateful for a hug, a newborn baby, a good coffee, beach holidays, snowflakes and kisses.

But for me, the real power of gratitude lies in recognising the blessings in everything we have – particularly those things we take for granted.

But what if I’m not feeling it?

Last week, I was in a bad frame of mind. Just cranky and tired and all used up. To be honest, I didn’t want to feel grateful. I didn’t want to hear how lucky I was. I was wallowing, and damned be anyone who tried to snap me out of it.

That happens sometimes, I guess. People have bad days. The good seems…less so. We get caught up in the idea of, “I’ll be happy when…” Or “It’s easier for them because…”

I don’t buy it.

Yes, gratitude is hard. No, sometimes we don’t want to allow ourselves to feel grateful, because that will require us to stop wallowing. But the reality is, my mum was on to something when she routinely told me as a self-centred, moody teenager, “There are people in the world who would love to have your problems.” 

Someone is happy with less than you have. (via Slow Your Home)

Man, that really used to piss me off.

I didn’t want to hear that. If it didn’t improve my situation right then and there, I didn’t care.

But, as teenagers sometimes do, I had totally missed the point.

Understanding that there were people who would love to have my problems really could have improved my situation. Because, all of a sudden, the out-of-fashion trainers, the missing mixtape and the schoolyard gossip would have mattered so much less. Understanding my privilege could have brought about perspective.

But instead, I missed the opportunity to learn that lesson at 15. So here I am, at 31, still trying. Instead of teenage worries, I am now consumed with phone bills, laundry and clutter. But instead of getting lost in them, I’m trying (really, really trying) to see the good in those things.

I’m trying to flip it, and shift my perspective.

Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. But the more I practice this way of thinking, the closer my gratitude remains to the surface. It’s becoming easier to dip in and out of it as needed.

Yes, gratitude is hard. But it doesn’t mean we should stop aiming for it.

 

What’s one thing you can choose to be grateful for today? Even if you really, really don’t want to be? 

 

Simple Living in Real Life – The Renaissance (Family) Man

Simple Living in Real Life - The Renaissance (Family) Man

Simple Living in Real Life is a series where we take a closer look at how different people approach simple living.

The theory of “living with less” is straightforward enough, but how does that actually look in real life? Each interview delves into how different people apply the ideas of simple living to their every day.

Simple Living in Real Life: The Renaissance (Family) Man

This interview is a little different to the previous Simple Living in Real Life profiles. Not because of who we’re featuring, or what they do, but because of his fascinating take on simplicity, and how best to live a slower, calmer life.

Joel Zaslofksy is an entrepreneur, blogger, Dad, husband, and all-round interesting guy. I think you’re really going to enjoy this…

Simple Living in Real Life - The Renaissance (Family) Man

1. Tell us about yourself, your home, who lives there and what you do.

I used to be the guy that prized stability and comfort over everything else. Growing up in a traditional American middle class home meant being trained to get good grades, go to university, find a steady job with good pay, get married, have a kid, buy a large house, and put dogs in that house.

Yippee! I checked all those boxes by age thirty! I’m a “success!”

Oh, but wait a second… I was also addicted to video games, sugar, and didn’t feel a sense of purpose. That all changed in April 2010 when my wife Melinda told me, “I’m pregnant!” That’s when my personal renaissance began and everything drastically changed.

I’m thirty-four now and I live with my two sons – Grant (3) and Clark (almost 0) – my fantastic wife Melinda, and two dogs: Lucia the Samoyed and Emsky the Golden Retriever. I found my sense of purpose in family and in quitting my corporate job in March 2012 to grow Value of Simple as a full-time entrepreneur.

Now I get to help people simplify, organize, and be money wise… and that’s exciting as heck!

There’s a bigger picture of my business (of course) and – if you want to really know what makes me tick – check out my Personal User Guide.

2. Being a dad to a toddler and a newborn, how do you keep life simple at home? And how does that differ from your wife’s approach?

Keeping life simple and keeping the peace is darn tricky. Melinda isn’t into simplicity or minimalism like I am, which sometimes leads to awkward conversations about our priorities or “stuff.”

But we understand and love each other enough that boundaries are set and expectations are maintained. Some simplicity goals are just mine like the minimalist wardrobe or paleo eating that emphasizes few ingredients and voluntary restrictions.

It helps that Melinda and I respect our different standards and that (often) neither set should apply to our sons. And to her credit, she has mostly parted ways with her old friend Justin Case.

Struggles remain like the constant one about how many and what kinds of toys our boys should have. But the biggest joy comes from seeing the inner-simplicity of gratitude, contentment, and feeling abundance within our house.

We practice these feelings through rituals like spoken gratitude with the first bite of each meal or silently acknowledging the amazing abundance around us, all day and every day. Those are things we can never pile high enough. Well, that and Grant asking me at dinner, “Wha are you grateful fer, papa?”

Simple Living in Real Life - The Renaissance (Family) Man

3. Have you always been interested in living a simpler, more intentional life? Or was there a moment or a major change that saw you shift towards living simply?

My life was everything but intentional or simple until my personal renaissance. I floated through one arbitrary major decision after another until I was thirty like what university to attend (the same one as my older brother) or what job to take (the first one offered, of course).

The proverbial switch went off when Melinda got pregnant with Grant. I thought about my legacy for the first time and how I might intentionally pursue a greater life mission. The minimalist fire was ignited when I found Joshua Becker’s Becoming Minimalist blog and the simplicity streak kicked in when I discovered Courtney Carver’s Be More with Less website.

What a gift that I now get to help other people simplify, slow down, and be intentional! Hopefully the local simplicity event I plan to start next year will turbo-charge simple living advocates to collaborate, build platforms, create friendships, and share resources.

4. You write and talk a lot about the intersection between simplicity and organizing. Specifically, you teach something called “Experience Curating.” What is it, why is it important, and why would we benefit from it?

Experience Curating is something you do every day without knowing it or benefiting from it. Through a six step process called FAOCAS – Filter, Archive, Organize, Context, Access, and Share – Experience Curating empowers past experiences to become future awesomeness for you and everyone else.

My five minute Ignite talk on the concept explains how you can curate your entire existence to become a go-to expert, unlock dormant potential, consistently validate a meaningful existence, and get superpowers like Batman (seriously).

Experience Curating is especially important for the simplicity movement because it helps us deal with overwhelming info or options (and an equally overwhelming desire to share valueless experiences). Basically, Experience Curating is the thing that helps you with all the other important things.

Simple Living in Real Life - The Renaissance (Family) Man

5. How do we create a simpler life with Experience Curating? And how do you apply that to your daily life?

My leaky brain guaranteed an unintentional life until I resolved to “put it in a spreadsheet.” Technology like Feedly (for RSS feeds) and Hootsuite (for social media) helps me aggregate and filter my life so only the best experiences get into my minimalist Excel spreadsheets. And those experiences include recipes, conversations, blogs, videos, books, music, or anything else I want.

Most people archive and organize in familiar tools like Evernote, Pinterest, Goodreads, or a commonplace book. But your brain is your primary tool to capture and enhance an experience’s context while technology (e.g., Dropbox) or your home allows for access.

How you curate is not as important as why you curate and what categories of life you’re passionate about.

Inspiration for my upcoming book on Experience Curating comes from many curated quotes. And the curator’s process provides instant access to relevant online links when someone wants to feature you in, say, their awesome Simple Living in Real Life series.

For me, Experience Curating is the mindset that lets me convert abstract concepts about minimalism or simplicity into something practical, useful, and teachable.

Simple Living in Real Life - The Renaissance (Family) Man

6. Why do you feel that simplicity is just as much about creating more as it is about consuming less?

The benefits of intentionally living with less are enormous. The first thing I did with the extra time, money, and attention that came from simplifying was literally nothing. Through silent self-awareness, meditation, or yoga, I discovered that I can never have enough nothing.

But consuming less allowed for much more than simply “being.” It gave me the gift of creativity and the resources to pursue creating. I think that’s why my Continuous Creation Challenge is a hit with minimalists and simplicity seekers. By focusing intensely on value we can generate life shifts from just consuming less to creating more.

7. As the father of two little boys, what is the advice you hope they hold on to as they grow?

Take risks and don’t be scared to be counter-cultural. I don’t want my boys to wait decades like I did before realizing:

“Oh. You mean I don’t have to live a conventional life?! I can actually make a much bigger impact and build a meaningful legacy by pursuing what resonates within me instead of what my culture pounds into my subconscious?!”

Simple Living in Real Life - The Renaissance (Family) Man

See? I told you he was an interesting guy. A little more about Joel…

Joel Zaslofsky gives instant access to download the free tools that he and countless others use to simplify, organize, and be money wise. When he’s not enjoying nature, working on his Smart and Simple Matters show, or chasing his sons around the house, he’s cranking out useful stuff at JoelZaslofsky.com.

 

If you would like to submit your home or workspace to be featured in Simple Living in Real Life, please send me an email with your details. I can’t wait to hear from you!

October is the Month of Change (Again)

October is the Month of Change - 2013 in 2013 Declutter Challenge

As I write this post, I realise I am a duffer.

Looking back through my archives for the September 2013 in 2013 Challenge post, I realise… I never wrote one!

September was an exceptionally crazy month, with our 4 year-old breaking her leg (she’s fine now!), an interstate trip for my first conference speaking gig and various other craziness. But to forget completely? Like I said – duffer.

I will make up for the lack of September checklist over the next week or so (it’s all about decluttering and organising memories – photos, scrapbooks, keepsakes, artworks etc), but for now… let’s dive in to the October tasks.

October is the second month that we will be focusing on seasonal items. We first looked at this change in June – when we swapped our summer for winter, or vice-versa – and now, as we get close to the busy holiday season, it’s time to work through these areas again.

Think of it as a good opportunity to reassess what it is that you like, need, use and care about. Chances are, even if you worked through these spaces back in June, you will find a great deal more stuff you now feel happy to let go of.

In fact, that’s one of the beauties of committing to living a simpler life – it gets easier over time to let go of stuff. Things that used to seem so essential turn out to be merely clutter after you make the shift to simple living.

To jump right in to this month’s challenge, you can download the October checklist here. Or keep reading to find the full list, as well as added tips and suggestions below. 

 

October is the Month of Change (Again)

The focus areas of this month’s tasks are the:

  • linen cupboard
  • general and seasonal decor
  • wardrobe
  • garage/basement

Again, we are focusing on the seasonal items this month. Think winter linens, coats, snow gear, throw blankets, heaters and boots for some. While in other parts of the world, it’s time to bring out the summer gear.

These tasks, while relatively small in comparison to those we’ve worked through in previous months (you can find all previous checklists here), provide the perfect opportunity to do a little work now reap the benefits of a clutter-free home as we come into the busy end of the year.

 The October Declutter Checklist

Remember, we’re looking at items you won’t be needing over the coming months, as well as items you no longer need at all. This could be decor that adds to the clutter, throw cushions you no longer need, recreation gear you don’t use anymore and seasonal clothes and shoes that haven’t been worn.

Move through each of the specific areas listed below, keeping an eye out for anything else you want to let go of. You will be amazed at the amount of stuff you can happily part with now that you’ve been working on simplifying for 10 months.

Linen Cupboard

  • Sheets
  • Blankets
  • Quilts/Duvets
  • Throws
  • Pillows
  • Towels
  • Guest linen

Wardrobes

  • Swimwear
  • Winter coats
  • Scarves
  • Boots
  • Sandals
  • Dresses
  • Shorts
  • Winter uniforms for school/sport
  • Lightweight clothing

Specialist clothing (hiking or snow gear)

Basement/Garage

  • Seasonal recreational gear (fishing, snow)
  • Beach equipment
  • Outdoor furniture

Seasonal Decor

  • Soft furnishings (cushions, throws)
  • Tabletop decor (vases, bowls etc)
  • Mantle, coffee table and hall stand decor

You can download the printable version of the October checklist here. 

This is a shorter set of tasks, as it involves a little more sorting, shifting and storing than the usual tasks. Don’t feel overwhelmed by this though, as each of the tasks above can be broken down further, into manageable, 10-minute tasks.

Remember, baby steps are the way to go here – and if you look back at where you were when this Challenge first began, you will be amazed at the progress! Well done!