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


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!

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

  1. Wow Joel – really inspiring! So many ideas in this post that I love. My favorite is the idea of intentionally creating value. Lovely interview Brooke – thanks both of you!

    • This whole idea of living an intentional life was a revelation, Katy. More than minimalism, more than simplicity, more than “going paleo” or any other change I made, stopping the arbitrary and focusing with intention made a world of difference.

      I glad you dig the interview and I’m grateful to Brooke for letting me contribute to this awesome community!

  2. Very nice article–thank you for sharing! I think minimalism makes raising children much easier–and much more fun!

    You’ll be glad not to have that giant playroom, with out-of-control toys…and to have fun family experiences and adventures to fill the gap.

    I think it’s interesting that so many people (myself included) have made huge life changes in their mid-30’s. It’s definitely a time of re-evaluating.

    • I also found the article inspiring :)

      Very well said about the toys! When it comes to decluttering my stuff, I worry about hurting the feelings of those, who gave these to me. However it is still easier to bear with compared to that when I try to get rid of something my daugther got from her grandparents or other relatives…
      And we just keep getting “surprise” toys, even if we ask them not to bring any :)

      • The toys aspect of parenting two small children is tough. I’ve been positively influenced by articles like Joshua Becker’s “Cheap Toys for Young Children” and Nancy Markey’s “Simplicity in Action” story on Be More with Less, but it’s still difficult (mostly socially, as in turning down gifts from friends and family or trying to prevent them).

        @Bethany – Some of the crises we face – and not in a negative way – are somewhat predictable. At least that’s what one of my favorite authors, Gail Sheehy, claims in her book “Passages.” But what’s *not* predictable is what happens as a result of the crises. That’s where the opportunity – and pitfalls – open up, right?

        • You are correct, of course!

          What happened to me, was completely predictable, although I wasn’t ready to admit it. Nearly losing my job, was predictable.

          However, the opportunity–starting over, 1200 miles away, on the ocean–was completely unexpected (and welcome)!

          If only we could see the opportunity when we’re in the thick of the storm.

  3. This is very inspiring. I’m slowly but surely making these changes myself and focusing on what is important. Quality over quantity! I feel it is also better for children to have less and learn to explore for themselves. Instead they can help you in the garden or you can teach them other valuable things.

    • I’m totally with ya there, Cathrina. I want my boys to experience the wonderful feeling of nothing. To not have external stimulus and to simply be content with silence or solitude.

      It’s rare that adults get to experience nothing when they aren’t sleeping, but it’s even more rare for our children to have the chance to just be present and not need something or someone else to see the abundance all around them.

      By the way, Melinda and I have already put Grant to work in our garden picking tomatoes (and trying to keep one of our dogs from eating those same tomatoes). :)

      • That’s great! One of the best things to show a child – where their food comes from. You’re really giving both of them a huge head start in life. Something so simple just shows you’re great parents. Thank you for spreading such a positive message!