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The A, B, C’s of Simple Living

Since we were featured in USA Today last week I’ve received a lot of questions via email from readers. A theme keeps popping up in these questions and it is:

“Why is the mainstream media so interested in your story?”

I don’t know if I have an answer to this question.

Chris Guillebeau said in his wonderful book, The Art of Non-Conformity: “I adhere to a guru-free philosophy, I don’t claim to have all the answers.”

I’m on the same page as Chris. I’m not a simplicity guru. I’m not perfect. And I still have my own fears and struggles. That’s part of being human. However, I do know that the attention from the mainstream media has caused me to think hard about my life philosophy ask myself “how can I craft my life story to coincide with my values?”

It’s so easy to run around everyday, spinning my wheels that I forget what’s truly important. I believe there are others, like me, that want to prioritize happiness, community and strong relationships in everyday life.

So I’ve summarized my life philosophy here as the A, B, C’s of simple living.

A stands for Authenticity.

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brené Brown defines authenticity as “the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

Yet, I still struggle with this concept. Partially, because I’m afraid of letting my true self be seen. And it doesn’t help that we live in a culture that constantly tells us we have to “fit in” to be accepted.

Authenticity is something I practice everyday. It’s kind of like practicing yoga. The more I do it, the better I get.

Micro-action: Define what authenticity means to you and find out what you typically hide about yourself to “fit in”.

B stands for Bravery.

What does it mean to be brave? The dictionary defines bravery as:

ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage : a brave soldier | he put up a brave fight before losing.

In many ways, being brave is more expansive than the traditional definition. Particularly, when dealing with heavy emotions. Bravery can mean reconnecting with a person who hurt you in the past or saying “I love you” instead of being critical.

Micro-action: Make a list of the brave things you’ve done in your life.

C stands for Connection.

We’re hungry for connection with people and community and at some level we aren’t getting it. If connection was really there and present in our lives, I don’t think people would be addicted to social media.

As much as we want to be connected, we’re scared as hell. We’re scared to let our guard down and scared of being laughed at. For example, I’m slowly rebuilding a relationship with my father. We had a falling out a number of years ago and I’m trying to reconnect with him. But I’m scared. It’s hard to open up and be vulnerable. I don’t want to get hurt again and I’m sure all of you struggle with similar feelings.

Micro-action: What’s one real life connection you can make this week?

Closing Thoughts . . .

I’ve been lucky enough to downsize on my own terms. And that by itself is a luxury. There are a lot of people in the world who don’t have the luxury of talking about “lifestyle design” and I believe that’s an important point to consider whenever we talk about simple living, either in the mainstream media or on blogs.

With that being said, as you move through your days remember this:

Cultivating authenticity, bravery, and connections can only happen by living your real life. I believe that’s the key to finding happiness in your everyday story.


Speaking of connecting, come hang out with me and my fellow blogging buddies next week.

Tyler Tervooren, Sean Ogle, Jonathan Mead, and little old me are hosting a get together next week. I’d love to connect with you in-person.

Here are the details:

Where: We’ll be at The Lucky Lab on NW Quimby in Portland.

When: Thursday, February 17th at 7pm.

Hope to see you there! 🙂

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sean February 9, 2011, 9:14 am

    I really like these micro-actions. SImple enough that I’ll actually do it, yet really effective.

    Looking forward to seeing you next week!

    • Tammy February 9, 2011, 9:21 am

      Thanks Sean! Looking forward to seeing you too. 🙂 Have a great day!

  • Catrien February 9, 2011, 9:23 am

    Thanks, especially for the “closing thoughts”. I’m downsizing my “possessions” with an eye to moving, and sometimes I think just that: how lucky I am to be able to choose what I want to keep and what I want to give away/throw away/donate. It’s good to keep people in mind who don’t have as many choices as we do.

  • Michelle February 9, 2011, 9:25 am

    Great post. Wish I could join you next week, but I live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Speaking of which, it was twenty below zero here this morning. The harsh weather is a deterent to going car-free. As well as the fact that I don’t think I could bike back up the mountain to my house from work, especially with my toddler in tow:) I could consider the bus. Again, I’m concerned about the low temps and a toddler.

  • Fabrizio Giammatteo February 9, 2011, 9:32 am

    Hi Tammy,
    I really like the “A” part of your article, being authentic is one of the most difficult issues out there.

    I live in a country that is quite different from US and even if I can’t call myself a minimalist (I certainly own much more than 100 things…) I really appreciate the idea and try to mantain my life sustainable.

    I’ve always wanted to live my life on my own terms, expressing what I really am, and I’ve been struggling for years because here meritocracy simply doesn’t exist and honesty is sometimes an optional, but I refused to “fit in” and what I learnt is that, in the long run, this is the right choice.

    If you show yourself for what you really are, with your qualities and your flaws (we all have lots of them) eventually people will appreciate you much more and your being authentic will lead you somewhere.

    That being said, I’d really like to meet some of you guys in person… but Portland is a little bit far for a weekend 😉

    Take care

  • Tonia February 9, 2011, 10:26 am

    I really like this post. I would definitely encourage you to pursue mending your relationship with your dad. I went through something extremely similar. What I took from my experience was that forgiveness isn’t always a feeling, and never justifies the wrong that was done. Rather, it extends grace- acknowledging that what happened was wrong, but not returning the wrong with what it deserves. It’s incredibly freeing, mainly for you. Before I forgave my dad, I realized that my unforgiveness actually chained me to the problem I wanted to be free from. Anyway, just wanted to share my thoughts and experience. Have a great rest of the week!

  • marianney February 9, 2011, 11:56 am

    Very good reminder that we are so incredibly lucky to even have the option to downsize. Many people in the world are living simply without choice and usually with less than is even necessary to survive.

    I think that as long as you do what is true to you and what makes you feel comfortable with the way you live your life, you’re on the right track.

    Great micro-tips! I’ll be contemplating your questions today. 🙂

  • Lisa February 9, 2011, 12:01 pm

    Thanks Tammy for the wonderful post. Your ideas apply to so many areas of life…even for non-minimalists like me.

  • Jami February 9, 2011, 2:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m in the process of downsizing for a long bike tour and I really think that the getting rid of posessions is going to be easy compared to the mental preparations that I need to make. Being authentic is probably one of the hardest things for me, and has also been one of my resolutions for the future.

    Good luck with reconnecting with your father. Connecting with a parent over a division is a very scary process. It’s empowering to see that someone else admit that it’s a difficult prospect.

    Thanks again for your ABCs!

  • Lorna February 9, 2011, 9:02 pm

    I believe this is your best post yet. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me. No matter how old we get, we still feel the need to “fit in” with others. What a great example you are being! Thank you.

    • Tammy February 10, 2011, 6:59 am

      @Lorna – WOW! Thank you. 🙂 That’s really sweet.

  • Jennifer February 10, 2011, 10:51 am

    It seems to me that the reason the mainstream media is fascinated with your story is that most people find this kind of change incomprehensible. And many people, myself included, long for a simpler life, but have a difficult time parting with the things that fill our lives. Our mental models of what modern life is like keep us in this place of consumption and stuff. So instead we vicariously live through you, trying to become brave enough too!

    • Caragh February 10, 2011, 6:57 pm

      I totally agree! Well said, Jennifer.

  • Gena S February 10, 2011, 2:01 pm

    I read, tweeted and posted this on facebook yesterday, but needed to let the emotions your post evoked in me sit for awhile before I could comment. First the simplicity of your ABCs is wonderful and powerful at the same time, secondly I was stunned how visceral a reaction I had to your sharing that you’d had falling out with your Dad and were trying to slowly rebuild. Even now it’s hard to comment on this without tearing up. I so identify as I have had extremely dysfunctional relationships with both of my parents and have had to step away from them for my own emotional wellbeing. That does not change my love for them or stop the desire to simply have a healthy relationship with them. Sometimes in life we, even after forgiveness has been extended, must walk out a season of lack of relationship. We (my very supportive husband and I) have bridged the gap many times only to have the relationship abused again to the point we have had to make peace with the fact that normal relationships with them may not be possible. We still hope, we have chosen forgiveness, but we have also chosen to go on with our lives, live full but simpler ones and be grateful for our *adopted* extended family and friends. I have been where you are; cautiously exploring a fragile relationship, it is a calculated risk, I can still say one worth taking even on this side of disappointment. The potential reward of renewed relationship is too great not to take the risk. I wish you all the best as you endeavor to reestablish true connection. Thanks again for such a thought provoking piece.

    • Tammy February 10, 2011, 5:40 pm

      @Gena – I have a fantastic relationship with my mom and step-dad. But my biological Dad and I have had a rough relationship. I was actually thinking of writing a post on forgiveness and might share a little bit of that story.

      Thank you so much!

  • [email protected] February 10, 2011, 2:09 pm

    May I add ‘consistency’ also? I know it’s a bit cheeky! But I am being brave! Tammy something that stands out for me is indeed your consistency – as well as your authenticity and bravery. I know what I am reading here is real, and that you will continue on your journey… I know that I won’t check in one day and wonder what it was all about?

    • Gena S February 10, 2011, 5:46 pm

      Exactly! That has been so refreshing about bloggers like Tammy, Raam, Courtney; their refreshing consistency. Their message hasn’t changed, grown and deepened maybe, but not changed with some fad. Love that! 🙂

  • Pea February 11, 2011, 2:26 am

    Some nice points. I actually think you quite ‘brave’ putting yourself out there because in your writing your vulnerability always slips through, which is very un guru-like.

    I’d like to ask you a rather blunt question if I may. Why do you feel the need to re connect with your father if there is such a struggle? I have never felt the need and have always really puzzled as to why people do. There are easier relationships to have and nurture but folks will struggle to reconnect with a difficult, reluctant parent, (not saying that is your case – I don’t know your situation). Do you feel you have to for some familial or social reason? e.g it’s the right thing to do? Do you feel like something is missing in your life?
    This may be too public a platform – I don’t know – but can you help me out?

    • Tammy February 11, 2011, 6:38 am

      @Pea – Great questions! It’s funny you ask because I’ve been thinking about these same issues. My Dad is getting older and I feel like it’s important to give the relationship one more go. If it doesn’t work out, at least I know I tried.

      But I can’t answer all your questions because I don’t have the answers. I’m still trying to sort through a lot of emotional baggage. I’ll probably write something on this soon. 🙂

  • Jason B February 11, 2011, 8:30 am

    This was an excellent post. I’ve loved your blog since I first discovered it, but I think this is your best post yet.

    I recently stumbled onto your point A myself. I had started a blog last fall, then abandoned it because I found myself unable to write the blog that I thought I should be writing. By restarting and writing the blog that naturally came out of me, I’m doing much better at it.

    Point C has always been a big challenge for me, as I’m extremely shy and being around a lot of people leaves me totally drained. But I’m working on it. I had arranged to have a couple of friends over for an evening of boardgaming yesterday, but we ended up calling it off on account of illness (it’s winter in Minnesota – people WILL get sick). But, I’m already working on getting it rescheduled and I’m totally looking forward to it.

  • Brenda February 16, 2011, 12:45 am

    Hey Tammy,

    Reading about reconnecting with your father really hit home for me. I myself just reconnected with my sister this past year and now I’m looking to reconnect with my youngest brother who is suffering tremendously right now! Thank you for reminding me not to give up! Oh yeah and I’m scared too. Scared that I’ll go back to old behaviors that ruined our relationship in the first place. But in the end I’m more scared not to try.

  • Aimee February 19, 2011, 1:21 pm

    I just discovered your blog, and love it thus far. I really love the authenticity definition. 🙂

  • Michael Dawson February 20, 2011, 11:42 am

    I enjoy your site and your work, and also live here in PDX. I would add one friendly but critical comment as a possible answer to this question: “Simple living” skates very close to being nothing more than an upper-middle class “green shopping” trope. To the extent it does that, it is just another sales tactic, and we know that the mainstream media are always open to those (and only those).

    Personally, if I were the one being covered in such mainstream outlets, the coverage would make me ramp up the political dimensions of what I was doing. More Derrick Jensen and less stuff about small business and marketing.

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