Your Community: Their Questions, Struggles, and Triumphs

Imagine a stadium of 80,321 happy fans all cheering for the same thing.

It’s a veritable sea of red as one joyous chant fuels the next.

Some people come to the game for the sense of community. Some of them come to see how the walk-on – who everybody said could never play on the big stage – outperforms all the fancy pants recruits.

Some of them come for the party and to roll out the barrel (a.k.a. the beer).

But as long as everyone is together, there is a common bond between them. They passionately root for their team, each other, and what it means to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

This was my reality for seven Saturdays each year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I walked side-by-side with my friends and 80,000 strangers into the gates of Camp Randall where the Wisconsin Badger football teams plays.

We energized each other. We became more powerful together than we could be alone. And even though Ron Dayne – college football’s all-time leading rusher – was the star of the show, we enjoyed seeing Matt “The Hebrew Hammer” Bernstein just as much (if not more).

I’d like Value of Simple to be your online Camp Randall. The place you come to see what other people do next, not what I’m conjuring up. I want you to cheer for the simple heroes who engage, struggle, triumph, and have the same questions as all of us.

So I asked three people in our community if I could share my interaction with them and prove we’re not alone. Their questions, struggles, and triumphs motivated me and I hope they will motivate you.

They show that resilience and simplicity aren’t just given to us. We need to take them.

Are you ready for action in 2013 like these three all-stars and to contribute to your fellow simple heroes?


Maureen replied to an email I sent to the newsletter community and I’m paraphrasing her tremendous reply as she said:

“Are you ready for the next big snowstorm, Joel? Not me. I am an Iowan/Illinoian and each winter gets harder and more fervently begs the question: ‘Why do I live here?’

The answer is family. I live here because I cannot bear to leave my grandchildren who live two hours from here. Our greatest resource we have is family, but the greatest obstacle to simplifying life is also family! My oldest son and his family struggle a bit on various forms of assistance and school loans, but their lives are simple…and we worry our heads off! So much so that we have started college funds for the two oldest children. I did not think simplifying my life meant gearing up financially for grandchildrens’ college. But this is family.

My husband and I downsized when we bought a townhome in our favorite university town. This is where we will retire, but for now we also rent in Illinois as that is where our jobs are. That’s two homes, not one. Not simple. Why do it? Family!

I could go on and on and share that my parents feel it was foolhardy to give up the “big beautiful home” to downsize. They are Depression era survivors and the big home (a.k.a. American Dream) is the symbol for success. And can you believe I let that creep into my psyche nearly every day? But I will win this one.

In conclusion Joel, simplifying is not simple.

Social and family influences are powers to be reckoned with and often we give in. I admire your generation’s spunk in bucking the materialistic system. I have stood up and taken notice. It fits with my spiritual readings and it is the way to live; cherishing and living each moment as it comes.”

In case you’re curious, I responded to Maureen’s email by saying:

“Thank you for sharing such a big part of your life with me and communicating a near universal truth: without family, most of us are nowhere. I struggle with the same thing you do. By that I mean how to simplify in the face of resistance from your family and your commitments to your family.

The fact that you have two places to call home isn’t ideal, but you’re doing it because of what your family needs. Good for you! Your heart and priorities seem to be in the right place.”

Bravo Maureen for showing how we can simultaneously be vulnerable and strong!


Misha’s also gets the Value of Simple newsletter and replied to one email as she said:

I wish I was less attached to things for sentimental reasons or had a better way of organizing those special items I can’t let go of, but don’t want laying around. I am learning all the time and I have let go of a lot of things in the past year, but some prove harder to let go than others. Do you have sentimental items you hold on to? What do you do with them?

I said in my response that I haven’t created any resources yet to help with this issue. But I wanted to try and help, so here’s what I told her:

“I may be a minimalist and love simplifying all aspects of my life, but I can still be sentimental. Holding on to sentimental things isn’t really an issue I have though.

Other people in your shoes have told me they’ve been helped by reading one (or both) of these articles. I don’t have all the answers, but these may get you closer to an answer yourself.

Hopefully the next question you have will be more up my alley and I can give some direct insight.”

I’m proud of you Misha for asking tough questions and for wanting to overcome a common, yet difficult struggle!


Takeshi is one of two people that have actually used the Share Your Story page on Value of Simple. That makes me smile and I’d love it if more people shared their experience on that page.

Enter Takeshi with this brief story:

“Hi Joel. I just found your blog and I am very much a minimalist myself. I am very much interested in this ‘movement’ for the pursuits of a simple, satisfying life. I read your post regarding The 72 Hour Continuous Creation Challenge. My questions is this:

Can you be creative when you decide to create something (i.e. form the idea yourself) or does your inspiration (i.e. externally generated) lead you to create something?

Thank you for reading. And keep up with what seems like a great blog!”

Here’s how I responded to Takeshi:

“Hi Takeshi! Yep, I’m a total minimalist too but I’m trying to draw a distinction between simplicity and minimalism. To me, they are two different things and enable different kinds of benefits.

I’m glad you liked my 72 Hour Continuous Creation Challenge. It was a ton of fun I tell ya! Most of what I created during that period was planned. My hand-made cards, reviews of online communities, my blog post recap of the challenge, etc. But other creations – like the first mind map I ever made – where spontaneous and richly rewarding.

Inspiration is fleeting so I capture it when it comes. Inspiration is just as hard to generate and catch than it is to act upon, isn’t it?”

Thanks again Takeshi for asking the question of why and how I do what you see through Value of Simple! I wish everyone would ask this question of themselves and come up with a great answer.

Your Turn

Today Looks Sunny

I probably will have little impact on how 2013 turns out for you.

You, on the other hand, have an amazing impact on how 2013 turns out for me.

Every time I get a note, a blog comment, a review of the podcast on iTunes, and an update on Twitter or Facebook, I get motivated that much more to give you everything I got.

My sense of purpose and belonging feels like the online equivalent of 80,000 people in a sea of red! And for that, you are to thank.

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

I want you to inspire me. I need you to motivate us.

Will you share your story and see it helping people here? Will you join the newsletter community and tell me what’s on your mind in a reply to a note? 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 are you ending 2012 and starting 2013?

Photo Credit: Robert Scott Photography
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2 Responses to Your Community: Their Questions, Struggles, and Triumphs

  1. Maureen says:

    Wow it feels great to be called an ALL STAR! Thanks Joel. Just so you know I was rooting for my neighbor state in the Rose Bowl yesterday! I am honored that you shared my story and enjoyed Misha’s and Takeshi’s as well. I love the direction so many of the younger generation have chosen. As I commented earlier, I have taken notice and am deeply impressed. To know so many 20 and 30 somethings have turned their backs on 80 hour work weeks, McMansions, climbing the corporate ladder and FDA backed processed food that is poisoning us instills a magnitude of hope for ALL of us. I came of age at the far edge of hippiedom and remember embracing the simpler, wholesome lifestyle as a very young mom. Food coops were all the rage and the precurser to community supported agriculture that we see today. We bartered our services (babysitting, car rides, etc) and food in our married student housing community with people from all over the world. I realize now I have been searching for that same “community feeling” since we left the university in 1978 to enter the “real” world. A simpler “community living” momentum appears to be gaining steam as I read of more young people giving up cars, possessions and a socially driven life style of consumption. I applaud and admire the spirit and spunk in your contribution to this momentum Joel, and all the others who have chosen to say “NO” to the status quo and “YES” to a greener more compassionate lifestyle.

    Maureen Moeller

    • Thanks for pulling for the Badgers in the Rose Bowl! Sadly, it was yet another heart-breaker in a string of Rose Bowl heart-breakers for the Badgers. I won’t complain to my friends who pull for other schools though, especially the local Gopher fans. I find it better to go to Rose Bowls and lose than to go to no bowl games (or win less prestigious ones).

      Back to the main topic though. Learning between younger and older generations is not a one-way street. I’m very fortunate you’re involved in this simplicity movement and you have a ton to teach us (relatively) younger folks as well. Keep the wisdom and guidance coming Maureen! I love to give, but I also love to receive.

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