Have you seen these headlines? Simplify Your Life, Retire in Your 30’s, or Live Like a Minimalist?
Only in the last few years have I truly learned what simplifying, minimizing, and the FIRE movement, are all about. I’m so glad I explored these topics as they have positively changed our lives greatly. Bringing less stress and more joy, less stuff and more freedom, less unhealthy habits and more pleasure, and even mo’ money but fewer problems.
I’ll explain a bit. 4 years ago this month John and I got married. It was the third time for both of us. Yes, the third time – for both of us – please #dontjudge #thirdtimesthecharm. While our lives are nowhere near perfect, in these past four years we have experienced and accomplished much.
With a bit of effort, we have progressed greatly towards simplifying and improving our:
- Food habits – being more aware of what we put into our bodies for our overall health and energy, thereby losing weight and improving how we look and feel
- Fitness habits – finding what works for us, to increase our movement, enjoy greater function and stamina, have better bodies and more fun
- Home and space – minimizing things in our home and life and experiencing more choice, less chaos, and greater happiness
- Financial habits – increasing our earnings, eliminating debt, growing our savings and investing for our future
Simplifying Nutrition & Learning to Eat Real Food
Four years ago, at the age of 45, I was a bit overweight, suffering almost daily from migraine symptoms – headaches, dizziness and vertigo, brain fog, nasal congestion, and more – as well as experiencing digestive issues and joint pain. I had little energy and just felt blah most of the time. While I was not on any prescription medication, I often took over-the-counter pain, sinus, or allergy relief meds.
John, who’s one year older than me, was on high blood pressure medication and cholesterol lowering drugs, he too was slightly overweight, with low energy levels and achy joints.
I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you. – Joyce Meyer
We didn’t think we ate a bad diet per se, but we did eat out many nights, used some processed foods to fill our diet, drank a bit too often and I still had a sweet tooth.
Eliminating processed foods, gluten, and dairy, and eating real food – mostly organic – prepared at home was truly transformational for us.
Today, we are both at our ideal weight, John having lost 15 pounds and me almost 25lbs., and maintain it effortlessly. John is off all medications. I very rarely have any migraine symptoms. We feel better, have more energy, and enjoy eating delicious real food, while still enjoying the occasion libation, red wine, or craft beer.
Simplifying Exercise, Moving More & Having Fun
We’ve done indoor rock climbing, running, walking, strength training, kayaking, hiking, bowling, and golf – yes those last two count. We enjoy some more than others, have dropped a couple, completed a half marathon – #ourtimesucked but #wefinished – and recently signed up to complete a Spartan obstacle race in September 2017.
Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors. – Norman Cousins
Strength training, mostly with simple body weight exercises, and distance walking remain our staples. Golf, hiking, and kayaking are limited due to Michigan weather. Unfortunately, shoulder injuries for both of us sidelined our rock climbing adventures – our favorite activity – but we are still hoping to get back to it someday soon.
With continuous exercise habits that we truly enjoy we have transformed our bodies, eliminating body fat and increasing lean muscle. Now at ages 49 & 50, we have better muscle strength, energy levels, range of motion, flexibility, and endurance than we did 4 years ago.
Simplifying Home & Life Towards Minimalism
Not only did we get married in the last four years, we also experienced some ‘life stressors’ if you will, including:
- Moving twice – buying one home, purchasing another and renting in-between
- Changing jobs – each of us twice
- Losing a parent – his mom and my dad
- Gaining a roommate – my mom
- Purchasing a 2nd home – for mom to spend the winter months and for our future retirement
- Becoming Grandparents – although we have not yet met John’s grandson (story for another day)
All of these things, and other things I’ve probably forgotten chosen to forget brought numerous emotions and often time’s great turmoil. In efforts to cope with the often-compounding stress, I read numerous blogs and books on stress-reduction, minimizing and simplifying life.
I desired the elimination of all the unnecessary from our lives to embrace and experience more of the good. Through great determination, we have given away or donated lots and lots of clothing, books, furniture, decorative items and household goods. We’ve also up-cycled other items and avoided buying/adding more ‘material items’ to our home.
We’ve found an endless amount of good coming from these efforts. While we still have some clutter, packed boxes and other non-essentials to eliminate, we’ve come a long way in reducing our ‘stuff’.
Simplifying Finances & Minding the Gap
The start of our new financial journey involved changing jobs, increasing education and hustling on the side which has all boosted our earnings. With focused concentration, we spend only on needs versus every want and eliminated all non-mortgage debt. With these practices, we have widened the ‘gap’ between our earnings and spending every month.
Saving and investing the gap, increasing our retirement contributions, purchasing a sensible home, obtaining a 15-year versus 30-year mortgage, doing lots of DIY home maintenance and improvements, and selling our beloved Jeep Wrangler to drive older non-sexy vehicles, increased our net worth considerably.
In a nutshell, with all of the above (and some helpful stock market growth), in four years we have:
- Eliminated all non-mortgage debt – over $90k paid off
- Established an emergency fund equal to 3+ months of expenses
- More than doubled our retirement savings
- Increased the value of our main home almost 30%
- Purchased a 2nd / future retirement home
- Improved total net worth more than 140%
What have you simplified or what are you hoping to simplify in your life?
So much is possible (in a relatively short amount of time) with focus, determination, and consistency. I hope a bit of our story will inspire you. And I hope that if you aren’t already, you soon will take simplifying steps to eat better, move more, and mind the gap.
Please join us and begin – or go further in – simplifying your own life. With minimalization come great rewards. Eat real food, move more, and mind the gap. Experience your own positive physical and fiscal transformations.