Living the Simpler Life: An Interview with Sam Spurlin

by Tammy Strobel on June 10, 2010

Over the last few months, I’ve been interviewing amazing bloggers about simple living, location independence, financial freedom and more. Every Thursday, a feature interview is posted on RowdyKittens.

Last week the feature interview was with Kent Griswold, the writer behind the Tiny House Blog. This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam Spurlin. He writes an awesome blog called The Simpler Life. We talked about his new ebook, Living the Simpler Life, life without the internet, happiness and blogging.

Keep reading to learn more. And enjoy the interview! :)

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Tammy: Sam, you recently released an awesome new ebook: Living the Simpler Life. Can you tell us about the book and why you decided to write it? And will you be releasing more ebooks in the future?

Sam: Thanks for the kind words Tammy. I originally planned the ebook as a compilation of a previous series I wrote for thesimplerlife.net called “The Essentials of Simplicity.” I wrote three articles and published them over a couple week span on the site and was planning on adding one or two more before compiling it all together into a free ebook. However, once I started the project it turned into something much more than that. I ended up with 8 “essentials” and even the three I had already written for the blog were almost rewritten from scratch.

The whole point of the ebook was to articulate the most basic skills and characteristics of living a simpler life. I tried to write the book that I would have wanted to read a couple years ago when I was first beginning to simplify my life. I think it does a decent job of pulling together a lot of the topics and advice you can find across the blogosphere with some new information thrown in as well.

I will definitely be releasing more ebooks in the future. Right now I’m working on a project that ties together my passion for biography, history, and how people get work done. I’m also batting around some ideas as well.

Tammy: Tell us a little bit about your blog, The Simpler Life.

Sam: I created The Simpler Life in October 2009. At the time I wasn’t working full-time and wanted to start something that would be a long-term project that could help me feel productive during a time when I really felt like a failure for not finding a job. I’ve been reading Zen Habits and several other personal development blogs for many years and they did a lot to help me develop into the person I am today. I wanted to try my hand at articulating some of the thoughts I was having on the topic of personal development.

I try to look at personal development through the lens of simplicity because I think it’s easy and unnecessary to add complexity and confusion to the topic. I believe that when things are boiled down to their simplest elements there is the greatest chance for understanding. Most importantly, and this is why I chose the name The Simpler Life and not The Simple Life, I believe that this is an incredibly personal project that will look completely different for each person. There is not an almighty “Simple Life” at the end of the tunnel. Just the “Simpler Life” you make for yourself.

Tammy: In one of your recent posts you talked about moving to smaller apartment, with no internet. Do you have any minimal moving tips to share with us? And why did you decide to go without an internet connection in your new place?

Sam: The biggest moving tip I can think of is to not have a lot of stuff (pretty deep, I know). I’ve been living a fairly minimal existence for awhile now so moving isn’t a very big affair for me. I don’t have less than 100 things like some bloggers out there, but I also don’t have much more than that. The important thing is that I have consciously chosen to keep everything I own for a reason. Anything I found myself resenting as I packed it up and trucked it to my new place was seriously re-evaluated. Decluttering before I moved and after I was established in my new place has worked wonders for me. That and getting rid of anything I found myself resenting as I packed it.

As far as no Internet, I’d be lying if I didn’t say my number one reason was lack of money. I’m trying to eliminate as many expenses as possible right now. Paying monthly for something I can access at the public library with a 30 minute walk or at my parents’ house 20 minutes away was not high on my priority list. I was worried at first but I have actually loved it. I love getting up in the morning and not even having to exercise any self-discipline when it comes to the time I spend on the Internet– it’s not even an option! Plus, I’ve discovered that I’m much more productive when I do have a connection because I build lists of things I have to do with an Internet connection (send email, respond to comments etc.) and it keeps me focused.

Tammy: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

Sam: I really enjoy routine. Whenever I don’t feel right or find myself in a slump I try to get back to the roots of my morning and evening routines. My morning routine consists of getting up around 5 o’clock and stumbling over to my prepped coffee and pouring myself a mug of joe. I’ll then sip that as I wake up and read whatever book I happen to be working on at the time. That takes about 30 minutes or so. For the next hour to hour and a half I’ll work on writing, like responding to these questions, or going for a run.

My evening routine has been to spend some time doing some less mentally taxing work such as prepping for the next day or outlining articles. I’ll usually brew myself a hot cup of tea and spend at least 30 minutes reading whatever fiction book I currently have going. Seems to be the perfect way to wind down my day while setting myself up for success in the future.

I suppose that answer is more than one simple activity that makes me happier. Let’s just call it focusing on routine and move on to the next one :)

Tammy: What has been the best part of writing a blog about simplicity?

Sam: By far it has been meeting a ton of new and interesting people, like yourself. I’m really glad I started the interview series at The Simpler Life because it has given me a chance to talk to some very genuine and awesome people. Interacting with people via Twitter and comments on my own and other’s articles has been a great experience that I’m very grateful to have. 7 months ago I never would have dreamed that I’d have this many people reading what I write. It’s been a fun ride and I have a feeling it’s only going to get better from here :)

Tammy: I’m always curious about what other folks reading. What books have influenced your life and career? And what has inspired your writing?

Sam: Oh man, I love reading. I wish I could read books for a living. I read mostly non-fiction and since I am a social studies teacher by training, I devour history books like it’s my job. I love reading biographies, particularly of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. My favorite era of history is the Civil War but I’ll read just about anything that has to do with the past.

I also go through spurts where I’ll read multiple books on the same subject over a several month period. Last year I went through a couple months where all I read were economics books. After that was a phase on evolution and biology. I followed that up with four or five books on Teddy Roosevelt. I’m now in the midst of a multi-month focus on personal development, marketing, business, and leadership.

I also love fiction and have been trying to get back to that as well. Stephen King is probably my favorite author and his Dark Tower series is probably my favorite thing I’ve ever read. I’m also a big fan of fantasy books and have read nearly every piece that Terry Brooks (the Shannara Series) has ever released. I’m currently re-reading the Lord of the Rings (just finished the Hobbit) and the Harry Potter series (on book 4).

I suppose all of these genres and authors have influenced my writing in some way. I’ve never really sat down and tried to write like a specific author or thought too deeply about where my style comes from. If anything, I suppose my wide array of interests has helped develop my writing by giving me plenty of fodder to think about as I try to form my own pieces.

Tammy: Everyone has unique skills; skills that I call superpowers. What is your superpower?

Sam: If there is one thing I learned growing up as the oldest of five boys, playing high level hockey, and now coaching, it is that there is very little worth getting truly upset over. I’m probably one of the more unflappable individuals you’ll ever meet. I don’t let much get under my skin and I tend to not get too stressed out. The flip side of that, unfortunately, is that sometimes I don’t do a very good job articulating or showing my feelings. Never get too low but I also don’t get very high.

Tammy: Thanks Sam!

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1 Kevin at Utah eBikes June 10, 2010

Tammy,

I’m delighted to have found your blog and am enjoying your interviews and all the links to other great minimalists. I’ve noticed that most of the bloggers about simplicity are young and single, as opposed to not-so-young with 4 kids. If anything though, we have more to gain from simplicity principles than others.

2 Understanding Alice June 10, 2010

another great interview and more motivation – thanks Tammy!

3 Alex @ tiny house talk June 10, 2010

Nice to meet you, Sam! I’ve been reading a lot lately myself and sometimes it’s one of those things that I put off, but once I get started I cannot stop. And so many passionate ideas come to me while reading so it’s definitely one of those things that keeps me going and makes me feel productive at the end of the day. Did I mention it’s helping me with everything? Thanks for the inspiration dude.

4 Sam Spurlin June 11, 2010

Thanks so much for the interview opportunity Tammy! It’s an honor to be featured on your blog and I hope your readers find something useful within my experience.

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