The Secret to Creating a Life of Simplicity & Happiness is Gratitude

by Tammy Strobel on February 12, 2010

It’s easy to forget how lucky we are especially when we’re under stress. Overall our minimal move was much harder and more stressful than we expected. Prior to our move we took a general inventory of our household items and counted up 300 things. But we didn’t consider volume.

Our bulk food and water containers took up a lot more space than we expected. In a lot of ways, I feel like my life is filled with plastic bottles and that doesn’t make me happy. Thanks to No Impact Man, I’ve been purchasing less plastic but it’s still a part of my life. Seeing so much plastic and extra stuff in the house made me feel uncomfortable and a failure in my goal of minimalism and small living. As a I pointed out earlier this week, being uncomfortable leads to growth and happiness.

Lessons in Gratitude

I learned a number of lessons as a result of our minimal move. One of the biggest lessons was on the importance of showing gratitude to your loved ones and community. Life is never boring and I’m grateful to be living a simple, happy life. I’m able to focus on the big picture of accomplishing good work, being a supportive partner, and community member.

Below are a few things I’m grateful to have in my life. In addition, I’ve included a few micro-actions for you to work on this weekend. The secret to living a simple and happy life is about gratitude.

1. I’m grateful to be part of an amazing online community.

RowdyReaders – thank you for your kind messages, comments, and tweets during our minimal move. They helped me get through the stress and remember what’s important in life.

Micro-action: Do you have an online tribe? If so, say “thank you” to a person who changed your perspective.

2. I’m grateful to have so many amazing family members and close friends.

Without the help of family and friends this move would have been extremely difficult. My parents moved us up in their monster truck and my in-laws loaned us an extra car. I didn’t want to drive an extra car up, but it turned out 2 cats and 4 people would not fit into the truck cab.

Having so much stuff made me cranky, but moving with family helped. My mom and dad were extremely understanding and my mom helped us pack up a lot of our household items.

Micro-action: Write your parents a letter and tell them how much you appreciate them.

3. I’m grateful for Logan, my best friend and partner.

Predicting the what the futures holds is impossible. When Logan told me a few weeks ago that he’d be moving me up to Portland and then returning temporarily to California to finish his work, I was sad and angry. Why? Because it wasn’t part of the well crafted plan I’d laid out in my mind.

I’m sad that Logan isn’t in Portland. But I think this is a good opportunity for both of us to grow and focus on the good things in life. I’m incredibly lucky to have a life partner. Rather than pouting that he isn’t with me I’ve been focusing on amazing projects and meeting new friends in the city of bikes. Life is good and there are so many things to be incredibly thankful for.

Micro-action: Do something special for a person you’re close to. Make them a simple meal, take a walk in the park and don’t forget to tell that person how much you love and appreciate them.

4. I’m grateful to have a safe, beautiful apartment to call home.

Since the beginning of the recession many cities have seen a substantial increase in homelessness. There is a shortage of shelter beds for single adults and the cold weather has exacerbated this problem.

I’m so grateful and privileged to have a beautiful little apartment to call home.

Micro-action: Have you considered donating money or time to your local homeless shelter?

***

Be well, do good work and be mindful of gratitude. With that in mind, take a tour of our beautiful little apartment.

 

1 Luke @ simplifi.de February 12, 2010

I wholeheartedly agree that gratitude is a major component to simplicity. If you’re really thankful, it means that you are content; you can’t be complaining about what you don’t have if you’re truly thankful for what you do. And real contentment, well that lets you into a whole new level of simplicity, one where you aren’t affected by the latest doo-dad that marketers are selling to you.

2 chesapeake February 12, 2010

Beautiful apartment, Tammy! I laughed out loud (in a good way) when you were finished with your tour after a minute and a half! *That* is what small living is about. My boyfriend and I used to watch HGTV, but we had to stop after being so frustrated with people walking into a house on House Hunters and complaining over the lack of five bedrooms for just the two of them. Imagine a house tour after they’ve moved in, just one repetitive room after another, filled with bed after bed that they don’t ever touch, just for the house guests they have twice a year!

Oh, and thanks to you and your encouragement, we’ve been looking at going car-free! After saying for years that it’s impossible to live without a car here in Texas, I stopped to think about how true that actually was. We’ve been researching alternatives and it’s not nearly as impossible as I’ve been saying. How many times do we say “no” without stopping to truly consider our options?

You are making things happen Tammy, whether you know it or not. I could never thank you enough. :-)

3 Tammy February 12, 2010

@chesapeake – Ohhh you are so sweet. Your comment made my day. I’m glad you’re considering going car-free! That is so exciting. :) Keep me posted on your decision. I’d love to hear more about the Texas biking community.

4 wendy February 12, 2010

I think your apartment totally rocks! How many square feet is it?

5 wendy February 12, 2010

Oh excuse me. I’m sure you probably said it in the video. I can’t hear it too well since it is very noisy at my work.

6 Erin February 12, 2010

Your apartment is darling! The kitties seem content in their new place.

7 James Schipper February 12, 2010

That is a great apartment! Huge, but looks really nice :-)

8 Tammy February 12, 2010

@James – LOL! Huge? It’s only 350 square feet. :) I think it looks bigger because we don’t have much furniture. Although, it feels like a small one bedroom to me. I can’t really say it’s a “studio” because they kitchen has a separate room.

@Wendy and Erin – thanks! So far the kittens are doing okay. I think they have finally adjusted to the new environment.

9 Lisa February 12, 2010

Tammy- Your new place is fantastic…just right for you two and your cats.

10 Erin N. February 12, 2010

I love that you feel gratitude for the help you’ve gotten along the way and I agree that it is the secret to successfully designing your life. I have a questions, that is not meant to sound disrespectful in any way, it is truly a sincere question. If everyone has a life of minimalism, then how would you move? I am struggling with creating an acceptable level of simplicity for myself and my almost grown children, so I recognize that I’m at a completely different place in life, but it seems to me that you’ve designed a life in which you depend on others to have the resources you don’t care to care for yourself. Does that make sense? As parents, I wonder how difficult it would be if our children couldn’t count on us. I’m not sure I’m communicating my dilemma, but it seems to me that the minimalism practiced by some requires access to the belongings of others who have made the decision to own and care for more.

11 Tammy February 12, 2010

@Erin – I think I understand your dilemma and you are right to a certain extent. For me the whole point of minimalism and/or small living means seeking out community. For example, I don’t own a car. So if I need one I either rent a vehicle or ask friends/family for help. If I ask my community for help, then I can repay them with kindness at a later date. (Like making them a yummy dinner, sending them on a trip, etc.)

For me I think it’s about the larger questions of how we’ve structured our society. There is a notion that you have to do everything yourself and I think that’s wrong. It leads to isolation and the overuse of resources.

Why can’t we share resources within families and our larger community? Does everyone truly “need” a car? Or a 5 bedroom home? I think the answer is no. We need community too truly connect with. We need to build meaningful relationships with friend and family members. We don’t need more stuff or cars.

If everyone lived a life a minimalism, then I would envision more “sharing” services, like zipcar. And the creation of additional community car-sharing programs, investments in public transit, etc.

As a side note, you can always move by bike. :)

Does that help? :)

12 Loganenator February 12, 2010

Hi Erin N.,

Its definitely a paradigm shift to transition to a minimalist lifestyle. We used to have your same fears until we watched a video interview of Dee Williams where she mentioned that by living with less she was able to contribute more. More money, more time with family, and more community volunteering. Everyone’s level of enough is different, however our hope is our friends won’t discount us due to our lack of possessions. Necessity always brings invention and our goal is to contribute to community, and barter for needs and services in alternative forms. The last thing we want to do is mooch off of folks with more stuff and fail to show reciprocity and gratitude. :)

13 Sue kozlowskis February 12, 2010

Hi tammy, I love your new place, I will show my husband the tour because we have been working hard for the last month to down size and we have gotten to a point where we feel like we have downsised as far as possible but after seeing your tour I realise now that we still have a long way to go. I think what you have done is great, the tour has really helped me compare my house to yours and now has inspired to go again and downsize and declutter even further. Thank you

14 Tammy February 14, 2010

@Sue – Just remember that everyone has to find their own “enough point.” If you feel like you need to downscale even more, go for it! In the end you need to create a home that makes you happy.

Much love and good luck. :)

15 lelly February 12, 2010

Tammy, your new apartment is gorgeous! I love the red in the kitchen. You said something about being sad and angry “Because it wasn’t part of the well crafted plan I’d laid out in my mind.” but i’m glad that you’ve thought about it in a positive way. sometimes you just have to let your plans go in order to let life in! big hugs and good luck in portland!

16 Tammy February 14, 2010

@Lelly – thank you! I love the apartment and Portland. It’s just hard being away from Logan – that’s the part that makes me sad. But I can’t complain! Life is good and he is coming up for an extended visit next week. Yay!

17 SavvyChristine February 12, 2010

I’m sorry to hear that your move was stressful! I also underestimate the space that two cats take up in a car, but I’m glad you had a solution for it.

In terms of your bulk food, what kind of bins do you need for that? Is there something you can sub out for the plastic? I’m sure you’ve considered this already, but I’m curious about the whole thing.

And finally, your new apartment is lovely!

18 Tammy February 14, 2010

@SavvyChristine – we purchased a lot of bulk food a few years ago (like rice, beans, wheat berries, sugar etc). The food is stored in large white buckets. I know it sounds a little nutty, but it’s actually really cheap to buy food in super large quantities. And if you store the stuff appropriately it can last for up to 20 years.

Also, it makes shopping a breeze. I go to the store and buy fresh produce and fruit and then dig into our rice/bean stash at home. :) We talked more in detail about our food / water storage in this video. If you have more questions, just let me know.

Thanks! I’m glad you like the apartment. :)

19 SavvyChristine February 19, 2010

I remember you talking about your food storage in the video, but I didn’t remember the specifics — thanks for jogging my memory. And it doesn’t sound nutty at all, by the way; it sounds really well thought out. I think I’ll look into this too.

There’s got to be some sort of solution for the plastic buckets. Are they 5 gallon-sized? Do you use them because they’re airtight? Cheap? Easily transportable? Stackable? (and again, I’m really sorry if you talked about this already in the video!) My first inclination is to ask you if you’ve considered tins, like the ones that popcorn comes in, but I’m sure you’ve already come up with and dismissed that idea. This bears more thinking about.

20 Tammy February 19, 2010

@SavvyChristine – Our food buckets are 6 gallon super bails. And yes we use them because they are airtight, cheap and easy to transport. They are a great height for furniture. :)

If you want to start investing in food and learn more about type of food to store, check out Simply Living Smart. I think they request a small fee to subscribe, but Logan learned a lot from the site.

Hugs…

21 Chelsea February 12, 2010

What a great apartment! I love the hardwood floors. Very minimalist. Unfortunately as I have bad knees I can’t do a bed on the floor or just floor pillows. Does that place have a closet or are all your clothes in the nifty built in on the way to the kitchen? I’m looking at moving to Portland in the next year too (depending on where I get in for grad school). It’s a great city I love visiting.

22 jean February 12, 2010

Tammy,

I’m so glad to read you are moved in and getting settled – what a sweet place! Your gratitude is evident, and your suggestions to “spread the love” are right on. Thanks for sharing the report of your move.

May you and Logan have many wonderful moments in your new home of Portland.
:-)
Jean

23 Tammy February 14, 2010

@Jean – Ahhh thank you! I hope the suggestions “spread the love.” A lot of people need extra hugs these days…

@Chelsea – Yes, we have 1 closet. Also the previous tenant installed a few racks to hang clothes on where our bed is located. We don’t have a lot of clothes, so hopefully we won’t need to use it. :) When you get ready to come out and visit, please let me know. You’re always welcome to stay with us and I can show you around town. Good luck with the applications! :)

24 Trevor Marty February 13, 2010

My friend Chris posted a link to your blog on his google buzz, and I
followed it to here. I love your entry, and your minimalism adventures.
I’m going to try them myself.
peace
Trevor

25 Tammy February 14, 2010

@Trevor – sweet! Thanks for reading and good luck on your own minimalist adventures. :)

26 Voluntary Simplicity February 13, 2010

Tammy,
Beautiful post. I think you’ve just inspired me to get back to the world of blogging about my own journey to live a simpler, richer life. Congrats on the move and keep up the good writing. Although I haven’t posted a comment in a while, your posts recently have been especially profound.
Peace,
M

27 Tammy February 14, 2010

@Voluntary Simplicity – Thank you for the kind word. I truly appreciate it. I’m happy that you’re going to get back into the blogging world! Let me know if you’d like to write a guest post sometime. :)

28 kate February 13, 2010

I like your post, Tammy, even if we are in different places in our lives. Gratitude makes things happen, internally and externally.

I saw your video (a link here) and learned you are 30 something. I am 40 something. I own two properties, city and country, with no debt. Back when I didn’t see this on the news or blogs, I paid off my mortgage on the city place in five years, after buying it in the early 90′s. In Dec. 07, I bought a tiny hunting camp in rural Vermont and paid cash and started an orchard.

But gosh, my first place is full of stuff, and my newer place was sold to me furnished — and being one person, I can only be in one room at a time.

I wonder about this a lot, and it can get really heavy, and then I remember gratitude for what came into my life, and gratitude for knowing good answers will come.

29 Tammy February 14, 2010

@Kate – thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like you’ve been able to live within your means and I think that’s so important. I can’t imagine maintaining 2 residences, but it sounds like it works for you. So rock on. :)

Have you considered going through your homes and donating items you don’t need anymore?

Thanks for reading the blog.

30 kate February 16, 2010

Tammy, I’ve donated quite a bit. Right now I am making decisions about how to use the space, and the rest of the cleaning out will follow. For example, the city place is also my law office, and I can deduct a large percentage of the space as a home office deduction. My country place is where I am locating my writing office, and I expect to have enough earnings to have a tax deduction for that too. This is the first year I will do that. It makes it easier to decide what to keep and what to give away, and easier to simplify once I have the purpose in mind.

31 Tammy February 16, 2010

@Kate – that’s great! I’m happy for you. It’s sounds like you’ve made a lot of progress toward decluttering and finding balance that works for you. Very cool. :) Keep me posted on your progress.

32 Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell February 15, 2010

Congratulations on your move, Tammy! I”m glad you made it.

33 Tammy February 15, 2010

Thanks Kerri! We’re still settling in and I’m trying to catch up on everything. :)

34 celina February 16, 2010

Hey Tammy,
I’ve been thinking about you a lot. Thanks for sharing. :)
Celina

35 Stephanie Reiley February 18, 2010

Really excited to see your new place! Love the colors on the walls. :)

36 Tammy February 18, 2010

Me too! It’s pretty and calming. :)

I wish you were up here in your house on water. :)

37 Emily October 8, 2010

Great post–especially love the microactions. So easy to do and yet so often overlooked…

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