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Sarah is… a proponent of Simplifying Your Life

Simple Living, sometimes called Voluntary Simplicity, is built on the tenet of ‘less is more’. It is about distilling you life down to your core values. It is a movement of people consciously choosing what is necessary and valuable to their life and shifting away from that which is not. Read below to learn more about my voluntary simplicity journey.

Voluntary Simplicity Defined

As defined by Wikipedia, Voluntary Simplicity (or Simple Living) is:

… a lifestyle characterized by minimizing the “more is better” pursuit of wealth and consumption. Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of personal reasons, such as spirituality, health, increase in ‘quality time’ for family and friends, reducing their personal ecological footprint, stress reduction, personal taste or frugality.

E. F. Schumacher summarized it by saying, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”

Others cite socio-political goals aligned with the anti-consumerist movement, including conservation, social justice and sustainable development. According to Duane Elgin, “we can describe voluntary simplicity as a manner of living that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich, a way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living.”

Simple living as a concept is distinguished from those living in forced poverty, as it is a voluntary lifestyle choice. Although asceticism generally promotes living simply and refraining from luxury and indulgence, not all proponents of voluntary simplicity are ascetics.

Giving a name to what was always there, Voluntary Simplicity

Giving a name to what was always there, Voluntary Simplicity

As a recent college graduate, I was browsing the ‘new books’ rack of my local library and noticed Linda Breen Pierce’s Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World. It was influential in that I found a book about people who thought about life like I do. Thinking in terms of the value of your time, consciously choosing what you are doing rather than living on auto-pilot. Thinking about what you do, why you do it and if you WANT to continue doing it.

Simple is not easy!

Simple is not easy!

As cliche as it is, simple living is a journey, not a fixed goal. Simple is not easy! It can be difficult to limit yourself to those things that are necessary and those things that bring great value to your life. It is an ongoing process to identify what is needed and what is not, what is truly adding to your life experience and what is subtracting from it.

In the movie, Fireproof, there was a particular quote that resonated with me. From The Love Dare, Day 3:

“Whatever you put your time, energy, and money into will become more important to you.”

The movie was using this quote to promote ‘investing’ in your spouse. But it should also be viewed on the broader scale of your life.

How do you use your time?

Are you giving your energy to the things that matter most to you? Are you getting a good ROI (Return On Investment) financially, emotionally or both?

Does your spending (money, time and energy) reflect your values?

Sarah is... an Entrepreneur

I have started four businesses so far, including one failed direct marketing advertising franchise, a successful website design business for individuals and small to medium sized companies, and an internet-only wedding dress store. Click the tabs below to learn more about my entrepreneurial adventures.

My first business venture was a direct mail advertising franchise.

My first business venture was a direct mail advertising franchise.

This venture was short lived because I was not solidly behind the product.

Why would I start a franchise company when I wan not 100% behind the product? Because I was working with what I knew best at the time. Prior to starting the franchise, I worked for a year as the Art Director for a small advertising company specializing in direct mail. But when it comes to selling, you have to be 100% behind your product. Or at least 100% behind the benefits you will get for selling the product. In my heart-of-hearts, I believe that this type of blanket advertising to a marginally qualified audience is not a great service to the end user. I do not like receiving “junk mail” and therefore had a crisis of conscience when it came to selling this type of advertising.

My second and current business is website design.

My second and current business is website design.

For over 14 years I have been creating websites for small to medium sized businesses, professional speakers, business coaches, musicians, recording artists and non-profits.

I sort of fell into this business. Isn’t that how so many of us get started in our careers? I was fascinated by the exploding growth of the internet in the 1990s. My college offered extracurricular classing in basic web design. I used my newly learned skills to create a website for a painting company owned by a family member.  That website came to the attention of someone who needed someone to design a few simple websites for him. This “lucky” set of circumstances, which I like to define as desire plus preparation plus recognizing an opportunity, lead to a small customer base from which to launch my tiny business.

The next evolution in my business came when a friend of my mother said “My husband needs a web person just like you!” That person was Mike Stewart, who had a vision of the internet as TV. I learned an awe-ful  lot about both basic audio editing and sales from my mentor, Mike Stewart. This was back in the day of soundpages.com, before he gained widespread notoriety as THE InternetAudioGuy.com. By being an early adopter of audio and video on the web, I was able to create a niche product that appealed to people in the music industry and in the public speaking industry.

My third business was selling wedding dresses.

I [used to] sell beautiful dresses at bargain prices. I indulge and delight my inner girly-girl. I give brides the opportunity to wear a Dream Dress.

In 2006, my uncle said he thought there was huge opportunity selling products on ebay. He asked me, “How can I make money on ebay? What should I sell?” My answer was “I don’t know but I know that you can get amazing deals on wedding dresses.” I told him about how I wore a brand new bridal gown worth well over $2,000 at my wedding. I certainly did not have that kind of budget to spend. But because I am a savvy ebay shopper, I was able to buy the sample gown from a well known designer for just $200.

I actually bought several gowns before deciding which one I loved most. With a budget of $800, (the average cost of a wedding dress is $1075 according to Brides Magazine) I purchased 7 gorgeous dresses. After the wedding, I resold five of the dresses and made back all of the $800 I had spent. So my net cost for a dress was actually zero dollars. Plus 2 dresses!

I realized I have a knack for finding great deals on wedding dresses. I am not too surprised by this. My father has the same gift, except he buys and sells used furniture. He turned his talent and interest into a successful retail business.

He taught me that timing is the key. He essentially provides a service to both buyers and sellers. He realized that there were plenty of people interested in purchasing quality home furnishings and there were even more people interested in selling their furnishings due to moving, downsizing, etc. Both prospective buyers and prospective sellers had a common problem of finding an interested buyer/seller at the right time.

Selling furniture is similar to selling wedding dresses. It can be tricky scheduling and presenting the item(s) for sale, completing the transaction and delivering the item in a timeframe that works for both parties involved. My business provides a win – win – win situation for buyers and sellers while allowing me to making a modest income with which to build the business.

My fourth and current business is photography.

At the heart of it, I consider myself to be a storyteller and memory keeper. I tell my stories with photography, but also with words and albums.

There is a streak of wanderlust in my family which means I had the chance to travel around the country growing up. Whenever we would travel, I insisted on taking photos with people in them. “I want people to remember that I was there and you were there”, I would say. “I want to see people not just pretty places! People are interesting.” It seems that the portrait photographer soul was already alive and kicking in my teenage self.

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