I’m sitting in Cambodia right now. It’s hot! It is almost the end of the dry season so it is the hottest time of the year. There are birds flying through the building, lizards running across the walls, and we hide from the scary bugs that come out at night under our mosquito nets.
We are here for a week working with an HIV orphanage just outside Phnom Penh (the capital of Cambodia). My husband does photography and video work and I help humanitarian organizations with online marketing and websites.
My kids (ages 8 and 11) are in the next room taking care of 3-week-old baby kittens that were found abandoned on the orphanage property.
But we don’t live in Cambodia, actually we live in Beijing, China. We have been traveling around Southeast Asia for the last few months working with different humanitarian organizations and investing our skills in these organizations we believe in.
It all started back in 2010. We lived in a nice house on the outskirts of Omaha, Nebraska. We were running a construction company and living the life we thought we were supposed to live. But there was too much. I felt I couldn’t keep up. I wasn’t the wife I wanted to be, the mother I wanted to be. I was trying to keep up with church, volunteer work, our business, and all my other expectations, and it was killing me.
Sitting down with my husband, back in December of 2010, we decided we needed to live our own life. We decided to prioritize our lives based on what we loved and thought was best for our children while cutting out the things that were getting in the way.
At first it was just simplifying our belongings and cleaning out closets…but when we got going we realized we didn’t need most of what was in our house. We simplified to the point where we decided to move into an apartment so we could save money and travel more as a family. After another year we moved to a smaller apartment and did even more traveling as a family.
Over a two year period we got rid of almost everything we owned, traveled to all but 12 of the US states, and were able to say yes to an opportunity to move to China.
When we first got started simplifying I was worried about how all of it would affect my kids. We got rid of the pool, the space for them to have their own bedrooms, their huge bookcases, closets full of ‘educational toys’, and even most of their clothes.
Now that we have been living small for several years it is clear what they really want and I can make sure I can provide it for them. For my kids it is a cat, lots of kindle books, a computer to do writing and other creative projects, and drawing supplies. My son also likes piles of scrap paper to practice origami with. These things don’t take much space and they easily fit into our small life.
Simplifying (also often called minimalism) has defined our family and given us the chance to do what we are passionate about together.
But this is what I love about it—it is totally different for every family. Most people don’t dream of getting rid of all their stuff and moving to the other side of the world, but the freedom of simplifying can allow any family to make changes based on who they are.
Simplifying allows us to stop spending all our time and money trying to live up to the American dream, and others idea of success, and lets us spend our time and money growing as people and as families.
From what I have seen, people see a lot of clutter and they decide their goal is to simplify and get organized. But the beauty of it is that simplifying isn’t the goal. Simplifying removes what is in the way of the goal. That goal is personal to for your family and something you can discover together.