Your Community (Part 2): Their Questions, Struggles, and Triumphs

The Sun Rises

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Thank you!


This is another awesome article in the periodic “Ask the Community” series. If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming article, reply to a Value of Simple newsletter note, share your story, or contact me.


I love this community!

And I love the notes of encouragement, sincerity, vulnerability, passion, and wisdom you send to me!

The original “Your Community” article was a hit and I’m excited to give you part two in this ongoing series.

I have three stories today from people in our community that prove we’re not alone. Their questions, struggles, and triumphs motivate me and I hope they will motivate you.

Are you ready for action like these three all-stars to simplify, organize, and be money wise?

Let’s hit it!


“Hello Joel,

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon your site but I’ve been eating it up this morning. My path to simplicity may be a bit extreme, but in terms of peace and financial freedom, it’s been well worth the work.

I built a 97 square foot house almost two years ago out of reclaimed materials [and] it cost me $3,000. I thought that living in the small space would be more challenging than it actually was. I loved getting rid of the excess clutter.

In July, I bought a piece of land for $5,000 and built a tiny addition. The land was that cheap because there aren’t any utilities to speak of. I began the process of striping down even more and converted my house off-grid. I paid cash for everything and now I will never have to make a rent/mortgage or utility payment ever again!

Keep up the good work,


Joel’s note: If you enjoy Kristie’s tiny house story, make sure to listen to episode twenty of Smart and Simple Matters where I chat with Tammy Strobel, an icon of the tiny house movement.


“Hi Joel,

Love what you’re up to here. For me, simplicity around how I approach work has been big for me. I’m a freelance web designer and online project manager. This was a big change for me as I used to manage a helicopter supported sled dog tour business on a glacier in Alaska for most of my twenties. I met my wife up there, and worked hard to save, live a minimalist lifestyle, invest in real estate, and grow as a leader and manager.

After our first daughter was born, I decided to transition to location independent freelance work so that I could be very close with my family, work from home, and minimize the costs of a traditional job like commuting, clothes, etc. This type of work also grants incredible flexibility if we need to move or just do something like go visit family without having to ‘request time off.’

I’m also on a mission to help other parents develop as entrepreneurs and conscious parents. I draw on my own experience and other leaders at

This is a journey I’m on too. Time with my family, flexibility and being a positive force for my family and the world are my big why.

By managing my real estate investments and doing my freelance work, I’ve been able to develop a strong bond with my family that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Over time, I continue to build systems to manage my ventures and my time. I wouldn’t say I have a ‘perfect system,’ but I’m happy with the progress.

Thanks for doing what you do.


Joel’s note: If Chris’ story sounds familiar, it’s because he wrote about it in amazing depth in a recent guest post. And the fantastic wife Chris mentions? It’s none other than Samantha, who also wrote a well-received guest post here.


“[I’m] very encouraged by your site. I have always marveled at simplicity’s genius in designing solutions to problems and its role in resourcefulness. I just somehow wasn’t able to implement it in my own life.

I am now emerging from a 7 year long set of circumstances that have brought me down to zero. Recession, bankruptcy, divorce, [only having my son with me half the time], 2 homes and declining health issues.

And then recently, it happened. With everything stripped away, I have decided to have my own personal reinvention.

I am on a mission now to create an amazing life for myself and my son that will create a foundation for him as he grows. I am starting with a mortar mix of 7 parts love, 2 parts transcendence of fear, 3 parts adventure mixed in a container of unwavering consternation.

[Also], I recently stumbled upon a discontinued school here in Maine. I wrote a business plan for its use to the owner about converting it to an alternative energy and sustainability school. Aquaculture, organic gardening, solar energy, food for schools, etc.

Two weeks ago, he handed me the keys and said go for it! Wish me luck… I’m going to help a lot of people with this.

Thank you for your work. It provided me with inspiration, another ingredient I need to add to my ‘mortar mix.’

~ Jay”

Joel’s note: Would you like to get an update from Jay on his journey? Let us know in the comments!

Your Turn

Every time I get a note, a blog comment, a review of Smart and Simple Matters on iTunes, and an update on Twitter or Google+, I get motivated that much more to give you everything I got.

This website is nothing without you. The message of liberating our time, money, and talent goes nowhere without your presence.

We want you to inspire us. We need you to motivate us.

Will you share your story too? Will you join the Refuge of Simplicity and tell me what’s on your mind? Will you contact me just to say hi and get a little crazy?

I’m not on this personal renaissance alone. You’re not alone on your journey to simplify, organize, and be money wise either.

Let’s team up and form a legion of all-stars who rock at this thing we call life.

So tell us…how is your year going and how might we help you achieve your goals?

Photo Credit: Robert Scott Photography

20 Responses to Your Community (Part 2): Their Questions, Struggles, and Triumphs

  1. Ethan says:

    Wow, I’d love to hear more about Kristie’s tiny house! I’m really impressed that she was able to get it done so inexpensively, and I’m about to embark on a big ‘clutter busting’ journey of my own. Cool idea for a blog post!

  2. Shanna Mann says:

    I would absolutely love to hear more about Jay’s school!

    It’s so great seeing the variety of ways people can build an amazing life.

    • I sent an email to Jay asking him for an update on the school. But perhaps he will share an update with all of us in the comments instead of you having to get it second-hand from me. Fingers crossed!

  3. cj says:

    Thanks for sharing such astounding stories, Joel!!! It is helpful to read and then learn from community members like this. They leave no excuses for inaction. All the stories offer flexibility in navigating life through simplifying. I’d love to know more about Jay’s school too. We are working very hard toward being debt free and trying to be decent bloggers and writers, oh and always looking to infuse our lives with more FUN!

    • It’s a thankful chain we’re a part of, CJ. I’m thankful for Jay, Kristie, and Chris writing to me and letting me share their words here. You’re thankful for reading their words and other people will be thankful to you for what you create (in very small part with the influence of articles like this).

      Here’s one last thank you. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Erin says:

    I like hearing from the other people out there who are inspired by Value of Simple and everything you do here, Joel. I’m constantly amazed by how many different backgrounds can come together online — people who’d probably never meet in the offline world.

    My year is going not at all as I’d expected, but in many ways that’s good. Time to reevaluate my goals — now that the new site is done — and figure out what on earth happens next :)

    Oh, and I’d love to hear how Jay’s story turns out!

    • Jay has become a popular guy from reading all these comments. I bet I can get him to provide us all with some follow-up info.

      By the way Erin, I’m really pleased with how your year is going. And I’m super pleased with your role in shaping my year into a pretty darn good one. :)

      • Jay says:

        Hello to you all and thanks for the interest and support!

        I have been slow in getting back but not because of disinterest… events of late have me very interested in simplifying and tiny houses are a big part of that. My results with school owners were
        not what I was looking for. I have been working on another web design for a long time now that uses a virtual business park for the co-location of synergy based businesses and organizations.

        If you all are interested, I will share how this concept works and why the school idea might benefit from this model. Any web designer interest out there?

        I have a small house design as well, uses a connex shipping container as core and the added structure can be disassembled and stored in container for shipping to new location. Off grid system, rooftop garden, uses vehicle energy capture as well for partial power supply. right now Alden and I are living in an apt. upstairs from a Dojo owned by a friend. 40×60 foot hardwood floor for yoga and martial arts.

        We are very actively plotting our escape from the “gravity of the planet.” Practicing non-attachment on a residential level. I look forward to following your paths as well. I cannot resist sharing an Alden story with you (although there are many).

        One day I was watching a documentary that had some very sad moments… Alden looked at me and asked if I was getting sad, I replied that I was and that dad is a big watery tomato when it comes to sad kids.
        Without a seconds hesitation he began to pat me on the back… “Don’t worry about it dad, at least you taste good on stuff!” followed by, “We gotta help the sad kids dad.”

        Thanks again to you all,
        Jay and Alden

  5. David Delp says:

    These stories are so inspirational. It’s very difficult what each person is doing, and I’m sure their chipper spirits met with some dark forces, which makes their stories even more inspirational. Personally I’m especially moved by Jay’s need to reinvent. I’m there now.

    Joel, it must feel so great to be part of this community you are contributing to. Minimalism is a growing, viable, spiritual, activist movement.

    Thank you for being a leader in such an important cause!

    • I’m also reinventing, David. Of course, I’m constantly trying to evolve, but this summer seems like a turbo-charged period for some major pivots in my business and life. That doesn’t even factor in son #2 that will be held in my arms right around September 16th. For what it’s worth, I believe a guy like you can be fueled by his internal fire (though it rarely hurts to have external fire from time-to-time).

      Keep rockin’ the Pilot Fire landscape!

  6. I’d love to hear an update from Jay about the school project in Maine.

    Also I love tiny houses. My wife and I lived in an off the grid 12 ft x 16 ft wall tent one winter in Alaska. I’ve been loving the pictures that come through fb for Ethan’s house.

  7. Tammy R says:

    Wow, three amazing stories – all so different, yet all the same in that they all took action to head steadily in the direction of what they wanted in life. Kristie, Chris, and Jay are all inspirations and reminders that living a life you love looks different for everyone, but we can all continue to support each other and share in the hows and whys.

  8. Denise says:

    It’s always nice to hear stories of progress. I would be interested in getting an update on Jay’s story.

    My year has been challenging. The details are too long for a blog comment, but simplifying has definitely been an essential part of my own journey.

    • Some of us know your story, Denise. And I agree: it’s far too long for a comment. You’re welcome to share the full(er) version on Value of Simple – and how simplifying has played into it – whenever you want.

  9. Sarah says:

    Cheers, Joel! It’s great to see how your message is resonating with so many wonderful people. Thanks for sharing their successes with all of us!

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