6 Appealing Thoughts on Minimalism

I will absolutely admit that the idea of switching to a “minimalist” lifestyle does have a strong appeal to me. I spent much of my life living in a home that had all sorts of chotchkies, dishes on display (two to three sets of “fancy” dishes, plus the “everyday” set in the cabinet!), lots of appliances on the counters, and a general sense of “clutter” by today’s standards.

That being said, I’m not trying to say that my home was dirty, but more like messy. I was always searching for something for an hour, or doing an arm sweep across the counter to clear off a space to do homework or some other project.

I read things like Adam’s page where he posts a photographic inventory of everything he and his wife own, and it amazes me. Leo has trimmed down his personal possessions to just 50 things that are his own, not including family items or things that belong to others in his home. I’m floored.

Maybe it’s a guy thing? Maybe it’s easier for men than it is women?

Nope. Lynnae has a deep-seated desire to be more of a minimalist. Jules minimizes her cooking, by doing it with only 5 ingredients per meal, and gets in and out of the kitchen in 10 minutes. I’m sure there are plenty more.

Okay, so maybe I’m just totally not cut out for this.

I currently live with my boyfriend who owns a computer repair business, so we’ve got computer parts everywhere. While you might think that I could easily work from anywhere with just my laptop and a wi-fi connection, I’ve got an entire room filled to the brim with my art and jewelry supplies. Yes, “stuff” that’s actually intended to serve two purposes: To give me that physical, creative outlet I crave, and to make some extra money.

And I don’t even have all of my “stuff” here. I left about 90% of it back at my father’s house when I moved. Seriously, 90% of my possessions aren’t even anything I’ve looked at in over a year, much less actually needed to keep.

Some of the thoughts and feelings behind the minimalist lifestyle that are appealing to me:

  • Less stuff means less cleaning. Less laundry to do when you have fewer clothes, less dishes to do, less dusting, less cleaning in general.
  • Maintaining means constantly paring down. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying something for a while and then selling it to make back some of your money.
  • Money! Less buying of “stuff” you don’t need means you have more money to buy things you do. Selling off gently used clothing, older appliances, books… all of that money adds up in your coffee can labeled “Vacation Fund” or in our case, “House Fund”.
  • Money #2, you can pay off your debt faster and stop creating more debt. How many times have YOU bought groceries or gasoline on a credit card because you didn’t have the cash?
  • Less clutter means feeling less cluttered. It’s easier to find things you need, when you need them, because you know right where they are. Living in a chaotic environment forces your brain to feel chaos.
  • More time. If you add up all the minutes in a day you spend looking for something, cleaning or doing laundry, or moving things around to create a space for a task, I’m willing to bet you could reclaim at least an hour a day, more like two or three, if you lived more like a minimalist.

I also think that applying the core beliefs above can be helpful in regards to work just as much as it applies to day-to-day living and home life.

I’m not sure I can do it and give it my all, but looking around the apartment I definitely see things that we don’t need, that we could find major purpose for with the money that could be made by selling it. I’m thinking that lots of craigslist, eBay, and garage sales are in our near future.

Just Stop Multi-Tasking Already!

Everyone gets overwhelmed at one point or another, especially when you’re wearing a dozen hats in any given day. I have many things on my proverbial plate that need to get done, and when that happens to me, I find that I wind up focusing more on my to-do list than I do on any action item itself.

In conversations with my other blogging friends, I’ve learned that this is by no means something that just happens to me. I am NOT alone and neither are you, dear reader, if you often find yourself feeling this way. So what do you do to fix it? How do you stop wasting your time on Facebook games, Skype chats, or discovering that you have 30 tabs open in your browser?

The answer is so simple, so easy, I think you’re not going to believe me when I tell you what it is.

Are you ready?

Pick one thing, and do only that one thing.

Set yourself a pre-determined amount of time to spend on that one thing, and shut down any and all distractions. You cannot “take a break to check your email”. You may not use your smart phone to respond to a tweet or check your blog stats. Just. Do. One. Thing.

Let’s pick some scenarios here. Not all of these are related to blogging or community management, but they’re all related. Put yourself in one of these situations for a moment (because I know you’ve actually been in them at least once before):

Look around. Your house is a disaster area and it seems that you’re the only one who “sees” the mess. Laundry is so “everywhere” you can’t tell what’s clean and what isn’t, and there’s a gigantic dust bunny in the corner of the kitchen that you think just might be getting ready to grow legs and very sharp teeth.

Stop what you’re doing, it’s perfectly okay to get off the computer for a while. (Seriously, it is!) Go work a room or two from the ceiling to the floor. The benefit to this? Well, besides having a clear, clean room or two, you won’t have it weighing on your mind any more when you’re trying to work. I firmly believe that once you get a room done, you’re GOING to want to do another. And another. Just force yourself to get through that first room without constantly thinking, “Gah! I need to be blogging/tweeting/facebooking! I don’t have TIME for this!” Whenever that thought pops into your head, crush it by saying to yourself, “No! I can’t sit in front of that machine knowing that this room is such a wreck! I owe it to myself to get this done, and done FIRST.”

I bet you’ll wind up cleaning the whole house top to bottom, will end your day with a shower, grab a beverage of your choosing and tweet away for a while, but will wake tomorrow feeling like you can finally get done the next day-long task you pick.

You’ve spent the past three days tweaking the width and color of the vertical line between your content area and your sidebar on your blog, and haven’t written a blog post in a week because it took you that long to figure out how.

So you find yourself taking a week reading blog posts and surfing the WordPress.org forums looking for answers to your questions, tweaking the width and color of the vertical line between your content area and your sidebar a hundred times to get it “just right”. Between that, you’re checking out the blogs of your competition (or others in your niche) and you’re stressing that their blog looks so much more professional, or that they have six ads and you only have one so that means they’re making way more money than you, or that they have 4,007 blog posts and you only have 17, or… wait!

You only have 17? They have 4,007? This means that you’re avoiding writing for some reason. Dig deeper. Figure this part out. As a blogger, your main focus should be building content. Sure, you might have other things you do for work, like many of us do. Some of us are consultants, some have “day jobs”, some have families and children to distract them from writing. But the bottom line is that you’re NOT going to have a successful blog if there’s no damn content on it. Period.

For one day, do nothing but write. I don’t care if what you churn out winds up being complete crap. Just turn off your internet if you have to, and open up a Word doc, and write. Keep writing. Go to the bathroom, refill your coffee, and write some more. Don’t answer the phone unless you know it’s an emergency (they’ll call back after getting your voicemail if it is, trust me), and freaking write!

Once you get a few good posts together, turn back on your internet, but just to go to your blog and schedule out those posts for throughout the week. If you only have three, that’s okay, hit it up for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then go clean your bathroom or do some laundry, you slob! ;)

You haven’t looked at your Facebook fan page community in weeks. Your last tweet was an instagram pic of the dessert you had three days ago. So was the tweet before it. The one before that was about the bitch at the grocery store who took the last jar of peanut butter right out of your hands. Your inbox has 237 unread messages in it. What the hell have you been DOING online?

I bet you’re one of those people who reads and comments on 30 blogs a day. Or you’ve spent hundreds on ebooks and coaching programs and you’re reading to death. Or, what’s worse than even those things, is that you finally reached level 50 in Farmville!

It’s time you set yourself up with a plan. Go sign up at HootSuite (the free version is fine) and bookmark the link. Use it to manage your Facebook pages and Twitter account from one place.

Now, the hard part… Give yourself 20 minutes at a time, 3 times a day. This is difficult for just about everyone, because sometimes they get wrapped up in stuff that will keep them longer than 20 minutes, and others will struggle with what to talk about for 18 minutes, and then find themselves bailing out on what could’ve been a decent conversation.

But this is important. You need to be super strict here, so use an egg timer or your computer/phone alarm system. Sure, if you’re involved in some kind of #chat or are really enthralled in a conversation with someone, that’s one thing, once in a while. But really, there’s nothing that needs to be done on Twitter or Facebook on a daily basis that should take longer than that. If you’re already a super productive person who’s well organized, fine, but for now, let’s stick with the plan.

One Last, Extreme Trick To Increase Productivity and Organization

I know you’re an adult, but remember back in grade school, when you had to have a routine? You woke up around 6am, showered, had breakfast, grabbed the bus, and then moved around every time a bell rang? Then you came home, and either banged out homework right away, or took a two-hour break to relax, had dinner, then watched your favorite television shows, and were in bed by an exact time?

When I was in high school, the first bell rang at 8:10am and the last rang at 2:25pm. Including lunch, we were “working” for 6 hours and 15 minutes. Homework usually took less than 2 hours unless a big paper was due or we were cramming for a test. That’s less than 8 hours of actual working. Think about that.

As adults, we have more responsibility than we did as kids. Less room for fun. When you’re working 9-5, you live for the weekends. When you’re working for yourself, it’s WAY too easy to get up at 6am, grab coffee, and “work” until midnight, 7 days a week. Just STOP.

I’m personally trying something new…

Waking up at 630am, grabbing coffee and sitting down to work. Making myself some breakfast around 8, and actually STOPPING my work day by 1pm. What this does is gives me a definitive time where I can close the laptop and go clean something, go grocery shopping, do laundry, or work on my creative offline projects like my art and jewelry. It also forces me to be more productive during my day because I’ve promised myself (and my boyfriend and friends and family) that I’ll be offline by a specific time.

Plus, I’ll feel like I’ve reclaimed daylight.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there will be plenty of times when I have one of my online coaching sessions set up for 3pm, or a deadline on a website to finish, or something going on in a community that happens during any time outside my 630am – 1pm window. That’s fine. It’s realistic. But what I’ll do is get offline earlier, and come back to it at whatever scheduled time I have to, or take hours off the next day to make up for it.

So there you have it, the ultimate truth. Now stop multitasking and go get something done!

Recommended Reading:

[easyazon-image-link asin=”0142000280″ alt=”Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/412mHGHqzzL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”100″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”0143034545″ alt=”Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Getting Things Done” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51UuPQVfXyL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”106″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”1606232932″ alt=”The Procrastinator’s Guide to Getting Things Done” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51MobxyxiEL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”107″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”1592574211″ alt=”The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Things Done” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51JUZTGn4JL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”127″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”1434103188″ alt=”Zen To Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41SGYSA5laL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”107″ height=”160″]

Things I Learned From My Dad

I grew up with people telling me how much I looked like him. I grew up with people calling me “Chucky’s daughter”. I grew up with a Dad who wanted to wrap up the whole world in wrapping paper and hand it to me, but knew that teaching me how to go out and find it myself would be an even better gift.

I remember the time I was grounded for something or the other, and my Dad told me I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike for a week. I think I was more upset by that than anything at that age, so it was definitely a serious punishment. When the week was over, he brought me outside to my pretty pink and white bike (it was leaning up against the house, taunting me all week long), and told me that he was really proud of me that I listened to him. I had plenty of opportunities to take the bike out when my parents weren’t home, but I hadn’t. He said that it meant a lot to him that I kept my word, even though it was because of a punishment. In this, my dad taught me the importance of owning up to your mistakes, and taking responsibility.

I remember catching my first fish in the creek across the street from our house. Apparently I was a good fisher, because I tossed that baited worm into the water, and in no time had my first bass. Dad didn’t expect for me to do so well I guess, because he made me hold that fishing line up, with that wiggly fish swishing his tail all around, while he ran into the house to grab the camera. (To this day, I think that’s one of his most favorite photos.) While some would say that teaching fishing to your child is intended to teach patience, quiet thought, and other “philosophical old man” type things, what my Dad taught me was to try new things, and be proud of yourself when you succeed.

Driving around with my Dad, we were always on the lookout for wildlife. Not out of fear of hitting a deer as much as to count how many there were grazing. Every year he’d take me to the “Wildlife Expo” at the Empire State Plaza. We’d look around in the exhibit hall, but really, we were there for this one session where this guy (whose name escapes me at the moment) would bring live animals to show the audience. I would sit down up front, because I knew that he would call on some of the kids to come up on stage to interact with the animals. I was called up nearly every year because I’d go above and beyond, out of control waving my hand and jumping up and down. Dad taught me how to love nature, wildlife in general, and most specifically, animals. (Which is considerably more than the average person who has a dog or cat and calls themselves an animal lover.)

I always say, “I grew up in a volunteer fire department, because my dad’s been a lifelong firefighter and EMT.” It’s true. My entire 34 years has had me surrounded by men and women who truly believe in selflessly spending their time saving the lives of others. My Dad spent Christmas mornings and birthdays and Thanksgiving dinners on emergency calls, many years of my life, and while I may have begged him not to go, I grew to learn and appreciate why he did. I was safe on those special occasions, and someone else was not, and it was his duty to go help them. No matter what kinds of disagreements had gone on, no matter how many times he considered leaving and didn’t, the bottom line is that these people will come together to do another thing my Dad taught me: Always help someone in need.

My father worked hard his whole life, and does to this day. He always lived and breathed the notion of loving and caring for your family and for others (both human and animal). But some of the most important things I can say about my father is that he’s been my best friend, my mentor, my devil’s advocate, my butt-kicker, my biggest fan, and someone I’m truly honored to not only “look just like”, but be like.

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful Dads out there!

My Not-So-Official, Official Story

After a recent thread in the ProBlogger Community about a member who was having trouble working his “About Me” page, I decided I need to do some restructuring with my own sections of this site. In doing that, I’m writing this post because where I came from to be where I am today is sort of a long story, and I feel it deserves it’s own separate post.

[easyazon-image-link asin=”0783233523″ alt=”Gorillas in the Mist” src=”http://www.larakulpa.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/gorilla.png” align=”right” width=”300″] Those of you who know me well, know that I didn’t grow up imagining I’d be doing what I’m doing today. In fact, I firmly believed from the time I could speak that I was the reincarnation of Dian Fossey. You might remember her name from the movie Gorillas in the Mist? Yeah, that Dian Fossey.

After graduating high school in the mid-90s, I went to college to become a certified zookeeper. My plan was to work for years as a zookeeper, working my way “up the ranks” while I continued on to get a PhD in Animal Behavior. Of course, what I didn’t realize at the time was that as a single (unmarried) zookeeper who grew up an only child and never did well with having a roommate, I’d need a second job. No time for more school, bills needed to be paid.

My First Experience Working Online

So I went to work for Neopets.com – it’s a cute community site, mainly geared toward kids nowadays, but started out for college kids. (In fact, I’d been working for them while I was still in college, but continued on afterward out of necessity and admiration.) I was senior community manager there, so my main job was to keep the baddies out. No pervs stalking little kids, no “adult language”, that kind of stuff. I got to do other cool stuff like design items in the game, beta testing, all that. It was great. And got me into web design. I had a blog before they ever called them blogs back then, and I loved it!

After September 11, 2001 my world as I knew it really crumbled. Tourism shot down so the zoo thing was on thin ice, and Neopets wanted some security for their company (because no one in the country knew just what was going to happen next) so they had asked me to move to California (I was in Florida at the time). I just wasn’t able to do it on the pay they offered me, so I had to decline. So without a good second job, and with the risk of walking in to work one day and not having a main job anymore, I moved home to New York. I was terribly sad, confused, and really had no clue what the heck I was going to do with my life. Go back to school? Take some time off and go back once the economy settled?

The Changing of Tides or, Riding The Rough Waves

I held several jobs for a few years, ranging from 911 dispatcher to lab tech in a biotechnology company. (I was also a fitness trainer at Curves for Women, a retail store assistant manager for Bombay Company, and a few other short lived things I can’t remember.) In my spare time, I took what I’d learned by working with Neopets, my own blog, and tinkering with web design, and started building actual, professional websites for myself, family and friends. It was kind of cool, because as much as I was into animals, I’d also always been a creative geek, and loved computers and programming.

Soon, I found a guy who had an internet marketing and SEO company whose job ad said he was looking for “someone with web design experience, but could be trained on SEO”. It was a neat gig, but after 6 months he “restructured” and laid off all but two of his employees.

I then found another SEO company who took pity on me and created a special position just for me, also doing SEO, but working from home. After about a year, she came to me and told me she felt I’d be better suited to go into business for myself, and with her blessing, off I went.

On My Own

I had my first paying client only two weeks into it, and they remained such for nearly 6 years. For a while, I had been blogging with b5media, a company co-founded by Darren Rowse. Darren and I quickly became friends and he’s by far one of my most favorite people on earth. Over the past 5 years, we’ve grown our friendship and working relationship to the point where I’m now involved in several of his projects. I know I’m gushing here, but I love working with Darren, and being a part of what he’s doing in helping people learn how to create an income online. Doing so has truly opened up doors for me. I’ve spoken at several blogging and social media conferences, am currently in talks with some colleagues about doing a series of ebooks, and planning to continue working as a consultant and speaker.

Going out on my own was the best thing that ever happened to me, both as a career and on an emotional level. As much as I miss working with my animals, and yes, even get sad sometimes because my childhood dream was “so close and yet so far”, I absolutely love what I do today. I’m in a place where I’ve got amazing clients, great friends in business and my personal life, and am eager to see what the next decade of my life will amount to. It’s not Gorillas in the Mist, but it’s my life, and I love it.

Have you ever been forced to take a major detour in your life plan? I’d love to hear about it!

About Letting Go and Making Room in My Life

Note: This post is inspired by recent events in my own life, but also by Chris Brogan. I adore Chris, and am grateful to watch him do his own letting go in favor of making room in his life. You deserve it, Chris!

I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks. I spoke to a room of 80+ people (may of whom were sitting on the floor! I love you guys!), unfollowed a few hundred people on Twitter, canceled 7 hosting accounts, removed 250 people from my Facebook friends (though I have a “fan” page, if you’re so inclined), ended a 20-year long friendship, and posted over 60 domains for sale.

I’ve hunted for houses with my boyfriend, had drinks with friends in Manhattan, written a few blog posts, helped my boyfriend’s sister move, and listened as at least two friends told me of their broken hearts and dreams. I spent some time with my nephew watching “Young Frankenstein” for his first time. I sat with a neighbor as she ran a yard sale, and took photos of a Memorial Day parade, both while soaking up the sun (just a little too much).

I’m letting go of so many things, which has enabled me to truly enjoy so many more. I’m learning something, and it’s that what matters most in life are the things that make you feel good.

  • Letting go of the domains and hosting accounts makes me feel good because I’m no longer spending money on something I’m not using. It gives me room, financially, to focus on the things that will help me grow in many areas, online and off.
  • Letting go of the toxic relationships, the “acquaintances”, the “we used to know each other but now we don’t” people – it has helped me to breathe deeper. I’m no longer feeling like I have to perform or be a certain way for anyone else’s benefit. I no longer spend my time worrying about who’s saying what behind my back, or why. I can’t even begin to tell you how free I feel right now. Words can’t possibly do it justice.
  • Spending time with friends and family – This is the biggest. I’m so glad I could both laugh and cry with my friends so much recently. I’m so grateful that the sun was shining so much that it bronzed my skin and warmed my soul. I’m happy to have spent time away from this box of metal and glass, to really interact with people I care so deeply about.

Don’t get me wrong – I love what I do, I love the internet. I just can’t keep spreading myself so thin. I want important relationships with people, I don’t need connections to people I only hear from on my birthday because Facebook alerts them. I don’t need to hoard domains because I once felt I had a great idea. What I need in my life is more of the stuff that lights fires in my heart.

There are a great many people who have completely inadvertently helped me to discover this “rebirth” I’m going through. I’m sure many of you know who you are, and if you don’t, I’m sure I’ll let you know somehow, in some special way, how much you mean to me. It’s something I look forward to.