Simplifying Our Life: The 7 Changes That Made All the Difference


In 2012 we journeyed around the world. It was the culmination of years of preparation. We’d scrimped and saved, renovated and sold houses, downsized and donated roomfuls of stuff. The time was right.

We traveled with only two small rolling backpacks for the better part of a year. That’s it … and we were happy. Our ability to survive – and thrive – with just a few possessions was empowering.

Before departing for parts unknown, we’d put our few remaining worldly goods in a 10 x 10 storage unit – and turned the key. We then enjoyed months of endless wandering with no worries other than how to get from Point A to Point B. It was bliss.

As our journey was winding down, we decided that we would establish a small home base back in the US that would enable us to live simply, connect with family and friends, and continue to turn the key and travel. We named it Basecamp Gallivance. And since then we have pitched our domestic tent in four homes.

But on Home #3 we lost our footing and ended up with more house than we needed – way more! Hence our need to simplify … once again. And that brings us to where we were a few months ago … looking for Home #4.

So we talked endlessly about how to get things back on track, and we noticed that the same themes kept resurfacing, We realized that they were the keys for how we could simplify.

Our solution was a blend of conventional – and unconventional – wisdom coming from a couple of simplifiers. We had to:

1. Figure Out Our Priorities.

What were we trying to achieve? Sure, it’s great to declutter, but first we had to make sense of the Why? What did we hope to achieve – or were we just initiating change for change’s sake? So we painted a picture of how we wanted our new, simplified life to look. We wanted to:

  • Travel more with no worries about our home
  • Live in the part of town we love, becoming part of a vibrant community
  • Become less car dependent and improve our quality of life
  • Focus on the people we love.

2. Change Our Mindset.

We’ve been serial homeowners and renovators for years. In the past we would choose a city we wanted to explore, buy an inexpensive house in need of TLC, fix it up, then enjoy living in it. When we were ready to move on, we’d sell it – and that profit would finance our next trip. But when we moved to Lexington we knew we were finally home – and we wanted to stay. We just had to find the right place. Home #3 was very pretty, but turned out to be way bigger than we liked. It required so much attention that it made it tricky for us to go traveling.

So we changed our mindset. We decided to become renters. And just that simple shift in attitude has made all the difference.

Home #4 – Our New Little Apartment

3. Move to a Smaller, Simpler Abode.

We found a cool little apartment in an old fourplex, located smack-dab in the middle of the neighborhood we love. It’s a 700 sq. ft. charmer – just the right size for a couple of simplifiers. The advantages are amazing:

  • We can walk to the grocery store, restaurants … and the list goes on.
  • Now if we have a problem we just call the landlord (who’s a really great guy). After years of battling with contractors, this is a dream.
  • We can live in a nicer neighborhood than we could afford as homeowners.
  • Since we no longer have money tied up in a house, we can invest it and use the proceeds for travel and doing good.
  • Now we can “lock it and leave it” at our whim.

4. Keep Fewer Possessions.

“I’ve got too much stuff!” is the frustrated refrain from many of us. And getting rid of stuff is both an art and a science. Whether you use the KonMari Method, “Packing Party,” or “Swedish Death Cleaning” – they’re all good. And if you’re motivated, you’ll find one that works for you.

Our mantra is “Love It, Or Lose It.” Simple enough, right? Keep the stuff you love (and need) … but when you stop loving it (and there’s a good chance you will on some things), then lose it. As James (the scientist) says, “Let’s don’t out-science this!” 

So that’s what we did.  We sold and gave away loads of stuff; then transitioned from a sprawling 1,700 sq. ft. house with a garage, shed, and huge yard, to a compact 700 sq. ft. apartment with 2 porches. Ahhh. As we say, “It may be small, but it lives large.”

Courtesy of Patricia and Mel Ziegler, who inspired our trips around the world. Founders of the Original Banana Republic – back when it was cool!

5. Streamline Our Finances.

We needed to be able to handle our financial life online, whether we were at home or traveling. We decided we had to:

  • Reduce the number of bank accounts – instead of 3 checking accounts, just have 1.
  • Consolidate mutual funds to fewer organizations, making them easier to manage. Then reinvest or direct deposit the interest and dividend income to bank accounts.
  • Pay bills online, and arrange Autopay for utilities and recurring bills.
  • Go paperless on everything possible – statements, bills, and taxes.
  • Limit the number of credit cards to our active accounts and one backup.
  • Get a PO Box to make sure that any mail that slips through the cracks will be held securely until we’re able to deal with it.

6. Uncomplicate our Travel Life.

Travel is a big part of our life, and as all travelers know – it’s complicated.  We wanted to make it easier. We realized the big question is What Bugs Us? Turns out it boiled down to 3 things.

  • Lodging snafus
  • Transportation challenges
  • Long-haul flights with no breaks

When we’re traveling long term we love to stay in apartments instead of hotels. And we have loads of experience. But we are no longer willing to chase landlords across the city to get the keys. Now we look for apartments that have a 24/7 reception so there’s someone there to give us the keys – no matter when we arrive.

We research transportation options in advance, so that upon arrival in a new place we know if we’re looking for a bus, train, or tuk-tuk. No more guesswork. And we’ve solved the long flight issue by making more stops … and taking advantage of them. Now instead of flying through Reykjavik on our way to Europe, we take advantage of a free stopover to explore the town.

7. Let the Rough Edges Drag.

Sometimes letting go of old behaviors is the hardest thing to do. In our professional lives we were the “People who got stuff done.” As homeowners, we could customize a house to suit our personal taste. But if we were going to successfully transition to being renters, we’d have to take a chill pill.

We reminded ourselves:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Care about things you can change.
  • Don’t be a perfectionist.
  • Stop trying to control everything. 
  • Let life happen.

Fortune smiled upon us. A few months ago we signed the lease on a wonky, 1925 apartment with brown walls. The old James and Terri would have had it whipped into shape. Instead, we just painted it white.

So now we gladly tolerate cracked ceilings, a creepy basement, earring-eating floor registers, poltergeist cabinet doors, and a whistling toilet. We love it!

We are content. We are gleefully letting the rough edges drag.

Terri & James

P.S. We were gobsmacked by all the fantastic ideas and tips for simplifying that you shared last week. Absolutely awesome! Our next post will be dedicated to all your great suggestions with links back to your blog. So if you would like to join in, please answer this question:

What are the things you did to simplify your life that made the biggest difference?

Our former brown – now white – walls. At the start of every painting project James always paints our initials – it’s kindof his “Kilroy Was Here” signature. What a romantic! ❤

Photo Credits: 1. Harvey Barrison  2. Courtesy of Yellowstone Under Canvas 4. Courtesy of Patricia and Mel Ziegler, founders of the Original Banana Republic – back when it was cool!


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

120 thoughts

  1. Bravo to you! I think what I most admire is the thought and discussion about what it is you wanted, what bothered you and then put a plan in place to fit the two of you! As discussed after your last post we still have more room but we are certainly looking at ways of emptying the space rather than filling it. As to travel we are doing a cycling trip in Jordan this fall. There are multi day stops in Europe in each end. We have learned to break up those long hauls too.
    Love the white by the way. Your apartment sounds perfect!

    1. Many thanks, Sue. It sounds like you and Dave had the exact same kind of soul searching when you decided to make your change. One of the most important things we’ve learned during this simplifying process is that everyone goes at his/her own speed … and you can’t rush it.
      I think it’s so exciting that you have empty closets – what a feeling of empowerment that must be. I had to laugh the other day when I heard James exclaim, “Hey, I just realized we’ve got an empty drawer!” How cool is that. Little victories! 🙂
      And Jordan – I love that place. Mysterious Petra and riotous Amman were some of my faves. That’s going to be some hot cycling. Where in Jordan are you going? ~Terri

      1. Well hoping by mid October we don’t melt and thankful it is a supported trip so I can melt into the van as needed. We begin in Amman and end in Aqaba with stops in Petra ( a full day and two nights to explore on foot) and Wadi Rum. Should be quite the adventure!

      1. I’m writing a story. Calling it a story because at present I am not very sure how long it will be, and meanwhile I also post on my blog on different topics.

      2. Thank you very much. Glad you liked it, feels very good. Feel free to give any suggestions if you like.😊

  2. Isn’t banana republic still cool?
    Enjoyed this post…
    and contentment sure is learned – eh?
    Now for the question:
    What are the things you did to simplify your life that made the biggest difference?
    One thing I did to simplify was to be smarter about what I kept – so rather then keep 15 scrapbooks – I went thru them pulled out what was really important – it took time – but moved those into four bins of stuff.

    Also – holding possessions loosely – which is what you two already do.
    There is no uHaul in he graveyard and so looking at what we own and why – that is important –
    I am not a minimalist – because I like
    Options and need a bit of variety – but the relationship with “stuff” needs to be examined regularly 😉
    People before stuff

    1. Thanks Yvette, you certainly are right about contentment. I’ve decided that if I had a “word of the year” for me, it would be “content.” 🙂

      I absolutely love your phrase, “There is no uHaul in the graveyard.” Absolutely brilliant! And wouldn’t that make an amusing photo?

      Congrats on whittling down your scrapbooks. That’s a huge job! I went through a similar exercise with our physical photo albums, and even though it was a lot of work, I thoroughly enjoyed the stroll down memory lane. Now I’m doing the same thing with our digital photos. Yikes – we sure take a lot more photos now!

      And as to the store “Banana Republic,” I much preferred the original from the 1980s with the Safari Theme. Fabulous hand-drawn catalogs and a touch of whimsy around every corner. When The Gap acquired them, everything changed. You can see some of their stuff here. So glad you stopped by. ~Terri

      1. Thanks for the link because I really
        Did not know too much of their 80s stuff – but have been there when other companies get bought and it is not better (when Ford bought Jaguar) and right now I am grieving to have to toss a Baja republic blazer – the lining is shot from going in the dryer – but I had some good wears and have other options but hat was a unique one!
        And funny u should say that about the uHaul and a photo – because I think the first time I heard the saying it was on a photo with a uHaul near a stone! Something like that!

  3. We’ve done many of the things you talk about here, but it’s an ongoing process – from getting rid of actual real stuff (now it’s what can we throw out of our rucksack) to checking into headspace, and sorting through clutter there. We all change all the time, it’s a challenge, but continually asking yourself what you want/need is a good thing.

    1. Tracey, you two must be the ultimate simplifiers – you’ve already done what so many people are dreaming of. Carrying your worldly belongings in a rucksack must be a great reminder to not acquire too much stuff. Very impressive. Did you put anything into storage when you took off, or just chuck it all? ~Terri

  4. I can relate to all of the above. We are now at a stage in our lives that less is more. Having a lot of stuff is just suffocating. For us the biggest change was to move into a place with a communal garden and never have to deal with garden issues again. We had a very maintenance garden that drove us to despair. Our home now is a lock up and go property. I like your deliberate and calculated thought process. Asking yourselves what is it that you really want/need at this point in your life. For us travelling is a priority at the moment. Sounds like it is for you also.

    1. Gilda, our garden is now a few pots on our porch and back deck, and it’s perfect. Lawns and gardens are absolutely a labor of love. We loved the comfort and convenience of our big house, but one thing that always grated was the lawn care. A communal garden is the perfect solution, and I’m not sure why more communities don’t pursue these. There’s so much open space that would be suitable, and for city government, it’s win-win. And “Lock & Go” is the way for easy travel. But in addition to travel, at this point in our lives just about everything is about the question of “Is this where we want to be putting our energy?” As we said, it’s all about priorities. ~James

  5. The key, as you suggest, is we must each decide what is important in our own lives. We are older and have almost life-long health issues. We moved to a condo years ago to free ourselves from outside maintenance issues. We have begun to “simplify” again but are doing it slowly. Some things you do will never be right for us. For example, when travelling, we take a wheelchair.
    On our last move, almost ten years ago, I took a lifetime of photos and moved them from albums to shoe boxes. We just purchased a rather expensive photo scanner, and now those photos will be saved in digital form. When we are through, we will give the scanner to a local museum for their use.

    1. Digital tech is a godsend for simplifiers and downsizers. Like you, we’ve gone through scanning photos and it’s great to be finished with all those individual pix. I also had a big CD collection, and finally bit the bullet and went totally digital as well. That was another space saver. And then there’s going paperless. All of these projects take time of course, but it’s front-loaded and once the system is in place it’s easier to maintain. I’ve discovered a scanning app for my iPhone and iPad that’s made my day to day scanning chores much easier. It’s called “Scannable” and it’s the bomb. ~James

      1. We completed 30 years of photo scanning when huricane Irma was beating down our down. It was a mad dash to complete a project stared a year earlier, however, has ended up being one of the best things we ever did. We now have albums online and enjoy them so much more.

      2. Laurel, as Terri may have told you, we lived at the beach in St. Augustine so we can relate to the pre-hurricane mad dash. The floor of our house was exactly 9ft above sea level, so storm surge was something we had to think about; which is another point for going paperless on records and digital on photos. All our records and photos on a thumb drive in my pocket was easier than 5 boxes of paper records to worry about. ~James

  6. This is such a timely post! I haven’t traveled around the world like you did — the longest trip I’ve ever taken was six months across eight Asian countries back in 2015. Toward the end of the trip I was longing for a place I could call home, so I settled back in Jakarta. Now I’ve been living in this city for 11 years, and I’ve been wondering whether I should buy a house and settle permanently or invest the money for something else. Your post helped me think of my priorities, which in the end will determine what I should do next.

    1. Bama one thing we’ve found on our extended trips is that we grow weary of constant movement, and we usually find someplace to settle in for a while. On our last trip we rented an apartment in Athens for a month and we based ourselves in Bangkok for a couple of weeks, and both really helped to recharge the batteries. As to property, until recently we’ve been owners for years and ultimately it always came down to: 1. Was it advantageous to own vs. rent and 2. Were we willing to put the energy and money into improving and maintaining the property? This is probably an oversimplification, and there were always other considerations, but answering these two questions helped get us to an answer. Good luck in your decision. ~James

  7. I love your new apartment. What a huge difference the white paint makes. Things can really be that simple if we let it. I think you mentioned you made sure there was some outside space which made a huge difference for us. I do think you need to write a book about downsizing and simplifying.

    1. Darlene, we even have a simplifying story to go with the white paint. We knew the apartment needed light-colored paint, and we considered lots of light colors, but in the end, we decided to use white on walls, trim, and window frames. Any combo would have worked, but in the end we knew how much easier it would be to only have to buy and keep track of one color paint. Simplicity is what it’s about 🙂 and we love the results … as does the landlord. ~James

  8. Wow…I have read a blog that is so much where we are right now! After 35 years of everything you state, we just signed a lease in a walkable FL city, and are having the times of our lives. Our goal is to get a one way ticket to Europe in a few years and bop around renting till we are ready to move one. A week, a month, a year. Who knows. Then we will come home and rent some more. Ironically, our blog starts a mini-series this week about organizing “new” spaces and we mean ones we don’t own! Thank you for your post…engaging!

    1. Hi Laurel, I’m so glad you stopped by! I agree, WOW! Looks like we have similar pathways for our lives. We love Florida, and lived in very walkable St. Augustine and St. Pete.

      I love your European plan – we’ve done it, both long and short term, and it’s fabulous. You are gonna love it. The trick that we learned is that you need to figure out which countries operate under the Schengen Laws (which limit how long you can stay in the area) and the non-Schengen countries so that you can alternate between them to prolong your trip.

      And the new business that you started with Kristen sounds so exciting. Best of luck in your new venture.

      So when you go traveling will you have to simplify and put your stuff in storage? All the best, Terri

      1. Thank you for your response. Yes, Kristen is my retirement plan! We are down to our favorites and may make one more purge before we take off for Europe. Hubs is on board with how liberating it is to not be tied to furniture. However, we’ve found what we have kept is really making a very comfortable home where we miss nothing. Thanks for the tip on the Schengen Laws…I’m on it!

      2. Laurel, your downsizing sounds so good. James also likes not being tied to furniture – especially if it’s heavy! 🙂 And the fact that you miss nothing, certainly must be empowering. ~Terri

      3. Oh, and one more thought, Laurel. One of the tricky travel things we encountered is that some countries require proof of onward travel when you arrive at Passport Control. It’s worth checking into for your destination countries. We’ve never had this happen in Europe, but many countries are starting to tighten up their entry restrictions. ~Terri

      4. BTW- may I share a link to this post in a blog of ours when I talk about the rental? I know our readers would love to learn more about your blog and experience.

  9. We have four children, Terri and James, and each one has gone through a certain amount of relationship issues that require a return to home base. Only one is with us now so I’m glad we have the room to keep them off the streets. Not much else you can do for them but be there and help them back on their feet. We’ve had to get rid of a lot of our stuff so they can store their stuff for when they move on.

    1. Hi Leslie, you know I’ve heard similar stories from several of my friends. First, congratulations on your family – James and I both come from families of 4 kids. But second, and most important, kudos to you for being such terrific parents and giving your kids so much love, support, and a safe place to land. Lots of young adults are not that fortunate to have parents like you, and they end up in tough situations.

      And I think maybe the positive twist on you having to get rid of your stuff is that, well, you won’t have to do it later. I think it’s called “involuntary simplicity.” 🙂 The only thing I can compare it to was a burglary we had a few years back where the burglars nearly wiped us out – completely. Then they came back the next night and took our truck. That was definitely some involuntary simplicity!

      Leslie, what shines through is your love for your family, pure and simple. It’s heartwarming. ~Terri

      1. I’m chuckling away at “involuntary simplicity” Terri, yes that about defines it. The good thing is we are there for them and they are there for us. It works out for all of us.

      2. Leslie, great point that the situation is mutually satisfying and beneficial. I’m curious, did you get rid of anything that you’re really missing? ~T

      3. I had a table cloth that my mother crocheted. It sat in a bag in a closet. No I don’t miss it but it did have sentimental value to me. I got rid of a lot of stuff – sent it to Goodwill.
        Our son was devastated when his marriage broke down. I don’t think he would have gotten through it if he didn’t have a home to come to.

      4. My mother also loved to knit and crochet – from afghans and tablecloths, to sweaters and Barbie clothes. I understand the sentimental value.
        Your son is one lucky guy to have such a supportive family. ~Terri

  10. I would love to be able to do this … but in my case, my other half isn’t ready. He’s still very much attached to his job and this house. I’m waiting for him to catch up with me!

    I like your tradition of painting your initials onto a wall. Those little things over the years become very special and meaningful. The white is much nicer 🙂

    1. Joanne, I think you hit the nail on the head for so many of us. Each person embraces change (or not) at a different rate. I can totally empathize with both you and your husband. When we started talking about making a change last fall (I brought it up), we were initially both more concerned about having to (yet again) sell another house and make another move – and we were living a comfortable life. We just had to set the topic aside and take a cooling off period. But when we next discussed it a month later, we’d both had a chance to think it through … overcome the inertia, and start to get excited. We just had to get off high center. I hope that you and your other half are moving closer to a meeting of the minds in the near future. Any chance?

      In the meantime, you seem to be having a blast! 🙂

      James’ tradition of painting our initials began over 30 years ago when we bought our first place. We like the white, too. It made the place feel so much bigger. ~Terri

  11. You guys are adorable! Thanks for making my lists for me! I lived in northern KY but loved Lexington when I visited.
    Don’t know how interesting this sounds to you but just suggesting you have the outline of a book here!

    1. You are too kind, Tricia! We’ve considered writing a book, but decided that we prefer blogging because the information is timely, feedback is immediate, and we don’t have anyone telling us what we have to write about. 🙂

      So, where you were in northern Kentucky? ~Terri

      1. Fort Thomas — went there to study with a sculptor at his studio and ended up transferring to NKU to get my degree there. Then lived in a great old school building for $100 a month for what was once a classroom – complete with blackboards – in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati. My buddies and I started a cooperative art gallery and I supported myself as a banquet waitress at Weston Hotel. For a time line, there was a fundraiser there for Gary Hart and I poured coffee for Alex Haley and watched Nancy Reagan cross the lobby on the way to a ‘Just Say No’ event. lol! Still have great buddies there and visited a few years ago. Love that Ohio River.

      2. What a fabulous story, Tricia. Ft. Thomas is on a beautiful stretch of the river. And I love Over-the-Rhine – goetta and all! I’ve always thought it would be fun to live in an old school building – my Aunt did in Glasgow, KY and she had one of the old glass-front bookcases in her apartment. I was so envious. Sounds like you’ve rubbed elbows with some interesting folks. So how in the world did you end up in the former Yugoslavia? ~Terri

    1. Thanks Pam. Despite getting off track on our most recent house, we’re big believers in keeping things simple. The process is different for everyone, but we think that whatever gets the ball rolling is a good thing. And if our posts can be a catalyst, they will have done their job. ~James

  12. Excellent and thoughtful post on a topic that we as well are often grappling with. Our first and biggest move from the U.S. to Nicaragua where all the stuff that had accumulated from my children’s childhoods was finally given away or re allocated was the start of the feeling of freedom.

    At that point, we packed up the stuff we wanted shipped to Nicaragua. And we too bought a broken down falling apart “house” and rebuilt it focusing on so many small details, to our specification. It took four months for our “stuff” to arrive, and just before it did, we wondered what could possibly be in there other than our piano and couch that we needed. We LOVED living with less and opening those boxes was a lesson: you actually need WAY LESS than you think you will.

    When we left Nicaragua to embark on a nomadic trip to SE Asia, we rented out our home and left with 2 small cases each, and we lived out of these for two years. And like you, we were blissfully happy. We eventually had to sell that house in order to get the $ out of it and another lesson which has been the best lesson of all: and that is the lesson of attachment. I have learnt over and over to let go of material possessions and value rather experiences over stuff.

    And like you we discovered the joy of renting over owning. SO much easier. Of course we happened to rent a place that had NO electricity OR plumbing or a kitchen or a bathroom. SIGH. So we put those in… YES… and got a year rent free. And we use the house to do home exchanges so that when we travel we don’t stay in hotels and we don’t pay for our accommodation.

    Fabulous post!! Well done on all the changes and tips. Such a terrific read!


    1. Hi Peta, and thanks so much for your lovely comment. If anyone can relate to making life changes it’s you two.

      And what an amazing story – and one that we can definitely relate to. We have bought and sold so many houses that we’ve lost track. But we have never bought a house outside the US – that’s one bit of fun we’ve missed. 🙂

      James and I marveled over your story of renting a place that had NO electricity, plumbing, kitchen or bathroom. Yikes! So glad that you got a year rent free.

      And now you’re moving to Vietnam. Will you rent there, or is it too soon to say?
      All the best, Terri

      1. Yup we are going for simple. Ie. Renting. Is the place perfect? Nope, but it does have water buffaloes lolling in the rice paddy nearby and it does have a roof top access and a view and is not too far from the beach or the city. So we are looking forward to moving in soon and calling the landlord when something needs fixing.

        The joys of construction in Sri Lanka, we don’t even want to go there…..! Nicaragua on the other hand was pretty smooth going and we built two houses there. Ahhh the joys of renting!!!


      2. Peta, it sounds like a perfect place! And how many people can say they have water buffaloes in the rice patty next door. How cool is that. Can’t wait to see some pics. 😊 ~Terri

  13. Terri and James – Congratulations on making your life a continuing adventure.
    In simplifying life, I think what you consider ‘home’ is a key issue. We’ve been in our simplified version of life for seven years now, and have been content. But, when I had to pack up half of my jigsaw collection so that the shelf stopped over-flowing, I thought maybe it was time to change. ‘Home’, to me, included my entire collection of puzzles, plus a select bit of travel mementos, and closeness to our son, who had moved to a different state. Like you, we evaluate as we go, and change when we must. ‘Home’ will move with us, and continue to be a simplified version of what we lived before we retired. All the best – love your white walls! – Susan

    1. Thanks a bunch, Susan! And your point abut what you consider ‘home” is excellent. I love that you say “‘Home’ will move with us.” That’s exactly how we feel, too. We always say that we are each other’s home – No matter where we are, we’re home if we’re together. 🙂
      You must be quite a jigsaw lover. Me too. My sister and I trade them back and forth – that way we each only have to store half the collection. 🙂 So how soon is your move? ~Terri

      1. Terri – we are mid-prep with the bungalow! You and James have been through that process so often, you’ll understand why this time, we are not hurrying 😉 . But, in 6 months’ time, we will likely be outta-here!

      2. That is so exciting, Susan. I can certainly sympathize with what you’re going through. So will you be going through the whole sale process, or keeping the bungalow? ~Terri

      3. Oh, my, Terri. You know this process so well 😉 We have lived joyfully here, and now it is time to move on, painting and patching and fixing the plumbing. We’ll sale – owning two places is just not for us – simplicity, right? Cheers – Susan

      4. That all sounds so familiar, Susan. I think James pressure washed things for 5 straight days. To say he was over it would be an understatement. 😊 So we’re with you on owning 2 places. Good luck on all your house prep and sale. ~Terri

  14. Great post! Congrats on the small apartment. You will find it is truly all you need. Easier to take care of, leaving you more time to do the things you enjoy. Smaller spaces also help encourage getting rid of stuff that no longer serves your greater good. Shane & I also rent our small cabin in the woods (around 700 square feet). We would not have it any other way. If we decide we want to move later on, no biggie. No house to sell and less stuff to move. A win-win.

    1. Amy, that’s so cool that you also rent. It sure makes a difference if you decide to make a change. Have you posted photos of your cabin?
      And I love your point that “Smaller spaces also help encourage getting rid of stuff that no longer serves your greater good.” A small space truly is self-limiting. That’s a really good thing! 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Amy, Your cabin is to-die-for! It fits everyone’s dream of living in a cabin in the woods! I can certainly see why you and Shane love it. And Josie – there’s only one word – Adorable! 🙂 ~T

  15. I so enjoy reading your posts and all the responses. You have no idea what a pleasure it is for me to see how many “travelers” there are. All of us come from such different backgrounds and yet our deep love of travel unites us as if we were family.
    Annie and I have no interest in downsizing – where would we put all the pictures and things we collect during our travels. We’re running out of wall, shelf and table space as it is!!! And where would everyone stay at Christmas? Of course I’m writing this while every muscle in my body aches from working outside adding brickwork, fixing the sprinkler system and painting for the past 2 weeks.
    Ah, Home Sweet Home.

    1. Thank you Steven. Like you, we really enjoy the amazing network of travelers out there. Just about any question you might have can be asked to the group, and you’ll get a great answer back.

      We can totally relate to the fact that not everyone wants to simplify their life. We think that’s great … and most of us have probably been there at some point. Deciding to simply your life is a deeply personal choice. Everyone does it in his or her own way. There is no correct answer – only the one that’s right for you. Thanks so much for pointing this out. I’m looking forward to sharing your words next week. All the best, Terri

    2. Hi Steven,
      For the past couple of weeks we’ve been writing about how we’re simplifying our life – and we invited you to share your thoughts on the subject. The response was wonderful! Thanks so much.

      We loved reading your real-life experiences and have included them in our next post with a shout out to you and link to your blog. It will be published next Monday, July 29.

      Thanks again. You made our day!
      Terri & James @

  16. i read this post nodding my head and agreeing. I have a large home and lots of work ahead to simplify. I wish I had bought a smaller home but that was 1992, so no use worrying about it now.
    Great ideas, and I am happy with you that you are enjoying a simplified life and concentrating on your priorities.

    1. David, as life rolls along I think that everyone goes through phases and stages, and think how boring it would be if we didn’t. We’ve ridden on that big house/small house rollercoaster and can relate to where you are. And in fact, after our recent big house experience, we also know how nice it is to have a big, comfortable home. I guess that for us, at this point in our lives, it’s important to consider our priorities and make sure that whatever our decisons were, we had thought things through. ~James

  17. Esther and I have a lot of the same conversations as you guys. Like you, we went through a major simplification when we first started our travel years. As you so wisely describe, knowing your priorities (and updating them periodically) is rightfully at the top of your 7 invaluable steps.

    1. Joe, lots of folks my age are at the point where they’re thinking how good it feels to be settled-in and comfortable. They love the stability and predictability in their lives, and I can relate to and respect that. It’s all about personal preference and there is no right or wrong way. But, in my mind the important thing is to have knowingly made the choice rather than being pulled along the same path by inertia. And as you mention, we just made a course correction. ~James

    2. Hi Joe,
      For the past couple of weeks we’ve been writing about how we’re simplifying our life – and we invited you to share your thoughts on the subject. The response was wonderful! Thanks so much.

      We loved reading your real-life experiences and have included them in our next post with a shout out to you and link to your blog. It will be published next Monday, July 29.

      Thanks again. You made our day!
      Terri & James @

      1. No…you made our day! We have always admired you guys, and love your blog! Thank you for the link. We are truly humbled.

    1. Thanks so much, Nicole. It’s been a long, winding road – but, oh so satisfying. 🙂 I mentioned to someone else that if I had a “word for the year” it would be “content.”

      Your trip to Mont Blanc with your Dan and son looks fabulous. How satisfying it must be to be able to do that. All the best, Terri

  18. Well done you guys! Though I must (sheepishly) admit that my life has never been as complicated as your pre-simplified life was. Over my adult years I’ve divested myself of virtually all my possessions 3 times. If there’s one thing I’ve learned – stuff is easy to come by. Don and I downsized to a 500 sq ft rented apartment after we stopped being nomadic, we’ve only ever had one checking account, one credit card and an emergency spare, and for years I’ve moved stuff out as new stuff came in. I’ve always lived a simplified life, the opposite of a hoarder, and nearly 6 years being nomadic taught me how very little I need or want. I must sound annoying self-satisfied, chuckle 🙂

    1. Many thanks, Alison … and I can almost see your smile and hear your gentle chuckle from here. 🙂 You should be self-satisfied. What an inspirational account of your life. I love your observation that “stuff is easy to come by.” No truer words were ever spoken. I can’t wait to share your words next week.

      You said that over your adult life you’ve divested yourself of virtually all your possessions 3 times. Was one of those when you took off for your 6 year nomadic adventure? All the best, Terri

      1. The first time was at 23 when my first marriage ended (house and everything in it), the second time was at 33 when I moved to Canada, and yes, the third time (when I was 61) was when we sold/gave away everything and became nomadic for nearly 6 years. It wasn’t always easy in the face of a society that measures success by the amount of stuff you own, but it was incredibly freeing.
        What did you mean about sharing my words next week?

      2. Those were 3 big life changes, Alison! How did it feel this last time to come back and furnish your apartment? I know when we moved to Lexington, we had to start totally from scratch. We were so concerned about “piling on” again.

        We had asked people for their stories and ideas about simplifying their lives, with their stories to be published next week with a link to their blogs. The response has been wonderful. Is it ok with you if I share your story about leading a simplified life? ~Terri

      3. It was quite an adjustment when we first reestablished a home after being nomadic. Don was really ready. I had some grieving to do for our nomadic lifestyle. And then there really was starting from scratch – buying a car came first, then renting an apartment, then next on the list was mattresses so we’d have somewhere to sleep. We discovered just how much goes into making a home functional, let alone comfortable – having to buy things like a broom, toilet brush, and can opener – all the little things you would normally take for granted apart from furniture, linens, and kitchen equipment. We slowly got it all together and even after living here for 2 years now I’m still making changes and improvements.
        I was never concerned about “piling on” again since I’ve never owned much stuff and have always recycled – something in, something out, and still do. We don’t have enough space for me to keep acquiring things which helps, and I’m completely aghast at, and bewildered by, anyone who would regard shopping as a hobby. I don’t get it. Except thrift stores – I’m a bit of a sucker for thrift stores.
        I think there have been two major things for me that have kept my life simplified – a need for freedom, and I can’t stand clutter.
        Thanks so much for thinking of us and including us in your post. Looking forward to it!

      4. Alison, you and I are totally simpatico on both shopping and thrift stores – hate the first one, and love the last, 😊 You really do have your act together when it comes to keeping things simple. Congrats! When we moved to Lexington we also were starting from scratch because we had sold our previous condo totally furnished – right down to the plates and silverware. It took more effort than we anticipated to pull it all together again. Thanks so much for sharing your story. ~Terri

  19. Very good to read your process, and to figure out your priorities. A friend does the following for everything bought, something is thrown out. Sometimes this works for me, but not always.

    1. Hi Bertie, Your friend’s approach seems to work for us, too. Whenever we’re considering buying something new, the first question is “What is it replacing?” and second, “What are you going to doing with the old one?” If items are in good shape, we always sell or donate them. Books go to the Friends of the Library for their annual sale. And worn out clothes often become our new “painting or yard” clothes. Since our place is small, we say it’s “self-limiting” and the “one in, one out” rule really helps. It sounds like you’ve really been working on it. That’s great! 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Steal away Janet. Realizing the things that bug us when we travel dawned on us slowly. After each trip we got into the habit of making a list of what worked and what didn’t. It took a few trips to realize that the same things kept showing up on the “Didn’t Work” list. We just tweaked our planning to avoid or plan for each problem area and it’s made a big difference. Hopefully this will come in handy on your Jordan and Israel trip. Thanks for dropping by the blog. ~ James

  20. i can relate to this journey of yours shedding excess in life. Myself and my wife had to relocate to another city recently. in the earlier city we had accumulated a lot of stuff over the years without ever shedding anything which probably reflected a certain frame of mind we were attached to. When we moved to the new city, we locked our house and moved with minimum stuff. and we feel really light, the life appears lighter, easier and simpler and in many ways liberated.

    1. Hello Pankaj, I’m so glad you stopped by. I agree it’s so easy to accumulate extra things at home. And when you’re get ready to move to another city, there’s too much stuff. Isn’t it wonderful too feel light? All the best, ~Terri

      1. I am.just writing a draft about decluttering myself so this has given me much to think about and lots of inspiration. Its titled ‘Make life simple to strengthen your brain and body and be rewarded with a long lasting life.

      2. I’m so glad to hear that. If you stop by tomorrow, I’m publishing all the simplifying ideas submitted by this community – you’ll be amazed at all the great suggestions! 🙂 ~Terri

  21. I’m really enjoying your series on your life changes. The apartment looks amazing with that fresh coat of white paint! As I noted on your last post, simplifying is important to us, too, and our last move (after 26 years in one place – yikes!) was just the impetus we needed to really clear out some things that had built up (despite my anti-clutter philosophy all along). We had a dumpster delivered and told our kids that if it didn’t go in the dumpster, it had to go with them. Of course, we had to follow that rule ourselves also, and after a week of major cleaning and then a big sale, we left the house with less than half of what we had in it all those years. So freeing. We still have more than we need, but we are committed to not refilling!

    1. Thanks so much, Lexie. We’re really enjoying the apartment – warts and all!😊 And your dumpster solution for ALL family members really made me smile and chuckle. What a great solution! Congratulations! I can’t wait to share your story because so many people have been asking about good approaches to use with grown kids. Thanks! ~Terri

  22. Hi Terri and James,

    Where do I start? This theme could be a book or at least an entire blog post…

    This is a fantastic post and series with real-life, hands-on experiences. Especially for people looking to downsize or – in my opinion – make their life easier, less constrictive, and more suited to their needs and desires. In short: become happier people with less stuff. On a side note, your description “It may be small, but it lives large” reminded me of a description one of my blog readers used for us recently:”You spend small, but you live large.” 🙂

    I feel downsizing and simplifying my life has always come easy. Never really a plan. It just happened and – while I understand how people have to do this in steps, because they ended up big and luxurious at some point, especially in the US – I never followed the normal path, where one works hard and buys lots. I never owned a house, a car, had a mortgage, etc. I always worked to travel and lived simply and cheaply to achieve that goal, my entire life.

    That being said. I had a normal childhood and collected a few things here and there, most of it I discarded last spring, when my parents sold my childhood home. The only things I kept were my handwritten diaries since I was fourteen, photo albums from all over the world from my decade of film, and souvenirs from the first five years of travel. Then, I wisened up as I had no place to store things.

    How did I simplify? Well, I never had a lot of things to start with, but – even now, when all our belongings fit in our camper van – I just love to get rid of things I have no use for. It’s so liberating. And, honestly, you don’t need much to be happy (and see the world).

    A brief history: I left Belgium in 2003 to never return (which wasn’t planned). I lived in a small camper for two years, then on a 36’ sailboat for nine months, then in a truck camper for a year, followed by a friend’s room for three months and a tent for two months. Eventually, my husband, two dogs, and I purchased a 35’ sailing catamaran in which we traveled, worked, and lived for eight years. That was as close to a (long-term) home as I ever had.

    When we sold our sailboat in Tahiti, we left most of it aboard – gear, tools, toys, pots and pans. We each had two checked bags and one carry-on to take with us. That was it. Since then, we got rid of things as we house and pet sat for three years and drove around in a Prius, and added things as we moved into a 19ft camper van. It’s all about balance and priorities! 🙂

    (I warned you this would/could be long…)

  23. We travel a lot but in 3 day to 3 week adventures most months. We move every 2-4 years
    We owned houses from 4500 sq ft to 1100 and rented small apartments. There isn’t much you can find in a new store, thrift store, antique shop we haven’t already owned once. It’s a lot of work to get rid of everything but treasurers but starting over is so fun and if you do it the thrift store way it’s not too expensive. We’ve been here for less than three years and now thinking of our next move. Lots to get rid of and replace! We think we’ll try renting again although I don’t like it.
    Mary Gallagher

    1. Hi Mary, I’m so glad that you stopped by. I love your attitude toward travel and moving around. And I totally agree that thrift stores are the way to go – they’re so much fun. When we lived in Asheville, NC we furnished our little apartment entirely from local thrift stores. It was always fun to see what we could discover and use in creative ways. 🙂 Wishing your all the best on your next move. ~Terri

    1. Thanks so much, Pawan. It’s a fun tradition that James started many years (and houses) ago! He says it’s his way of adding a little piece of us to everywhere we’ve lived.:) So glad that your stopped by. All the best, Terri

  24. This blog is so inspiring! I thought I was doing a good job of simplifying/down-sizing until I went in search of documentation on my blood type for upcoming travels. I still don’t know my blood type, but I now know where my wedding dress is (divorced 18 years!) I think I have much more work to do, but am more motivated!

    1. Thanks so much, Tracey. I’m still chuckling about your search for blood type documentation – only to come up with your wedding dress~ 🙂 Too funny! It’s great to hear that you’re more motivated – what are you going to tackle next? So glad you stopped by. All the best, Terri

  25. That’s it. I’m discarding my red living room set for a white one! Lol. Your apartment looks so soothing! I love it. And I love this post I will use it as a guide in simplifying. I am slowly incorporating the ideas here.

    What I have successfully done to simplify my life is to get rid and avoid unnecessary, even toxic relationships. Rid is a strong word and we don’t discard people. But I could not think of a better term at the moment. But doing this made a huge difference in my life!

    It’s quiet now. It feels better that way.

    1. Hi Anna, It’s wonderful to hear from you! We have so much in common because I sold my red sofa before moving into our little apartment. The white sofa just seems to make the space a lot calmer – and it has a slipcover so I can wash it! 🙂

      Your point about simplifying your life by avoiding unfulfilling relationships is excellent. Sometimes it’s just time to move on … and leave all the drama behind. Congrats to you for doing that. Thanks for stopping by. All the best, Terri

    2. Unproductive relationships are a big drag. I’ve “hidden” or defriended almost everyone on Facebook who didn’t add value, and tried to focus my time and energy on my favorite and best friends.

      1. Jeff, these pendulum swings are interesting to watch. I know lots of folks (me included) who jumped on the FB wagon, who are now re-evaluating how much they use or keep up with FB. Social media is here to stay, but like all technologies, it isn’t a panacea. ~James

  26. Great post. We travel school with 2 teenagers 6 mos out of the year. This process of traveling light through Europe and moving onto our 53′ boat requires a profound level of minimalizing for us. We learned we are happiest with less! I can see my husband and I on your exact path once we are empty-nesters!

    1. Hi Lynne, I’m so glad that you stopped by. Thanks so much for your kind words. What a fascinating life you are living – and education for your teenagers. You certainly can’t beat the school of life. You’ve got to be the coolest parents around.
      I see that you’re an artist – and a very accomplished one, at that. Do you draw your inspiration from your travels?
      All the best, Terri

  27. We found your blog today; really inspiring! We love travelling too and sold our house to live in a ‘lock-and-leave’ flat. This enabled us to take a round-the-world trip in 2016 to visit about 40 different countries. We went back to work in January 2017 and have travelled where we can to fit in around work. However the current lockdown situation is causing us re-think our post-covid lifestyle and find a way to hit the road again… once we can…

    1. Thanks for the comment Chris and Laura, and for dropping by the blog. 40 countries on one RTW … impressive. You guys must have been busy. We took a couple of RTWs, one in each direction, and they were fabulous. On each trip, we had just sold our home so we were essentially homeless (or we like to call it homefree), so we had lots of flexibility about time. But as everyone knows, this pandemic has radically changed travel for the forseeable future and trips like this will definitely take a rethink.

      Unfortunately, I think that carefree hopping from country to country may be an impossibility for a long time. There will be so many unknowns and constantly changing government entry requirements may be prohibitive. In the meantime, we’re hopeful. and like you, looking forward to getting back on the road. Best of luck and stay healthy. ~James

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