Discovering What Really Matters

Discovering What Really Matters

This is a rather personal blog entry and I hope that you can “hear” it without your filters on. You may agree or disagree with me and that’s fine. I am not trying to convince you of anything nor am I trying to change your mind about anything you currently hold as true. What I do hope is that you will ask yourselves some questions and that you will look deeply in what is true for YOU on the journey of discovering what really matters in life.

The last few months for me have been an incredible experience. As many of you know, my wife, 12-year-old daughter and I have been living the simple life in Mexico. In fact, most of that time has been spent living on a beach in a small (very small) tent trailer. In that time, we have come to see what things are important in life and which are simply not. The most obvious things of importance are family, health, happiness, food, clean water, and safe shelter. I think we can all agree that those things are important. Are there other things that land on your “important list?” There certainly could be. Here’s my list as it stands today (keep in mind that some may be doubles or subsets of previous items) and I’m keenly aware that this list changes almost daily as new joys enter my life.

That Which Is Important

  • Love
  • Family
  • Health
  • Joy
  • Clean Water
  • Safe Shelter
  • Healthy Food
  • Freedom (define this as you may as it means many things to me)
  • An Open Heart
  • An Open Mind
  • A Sense of Humor
  • A Willingness to Forgive and Be Forgiven
  • Compassion
  • Quiet (inside and out)
  • Peace (inside and out)
  • Clean Air
  • Laughing
  • Crying
  • Listening
  • Connection With Nature
  • Money (This can be on either list depending on your relationship with it)

So what about the things we don’t need? As I mentioned at the end of my list, the M word can potentially find itself listed as something of importance or something that we don’t need. How do you relate to money? Do you see it as the root of all evil or something to help spread joy? Perhaps it’s somewhere in between for you. Like everything else on your lists (assuming you decide to take some time to create lists like these) I would hope that you really look at the truths underneath, in between, and around all of your beliefs. I use money as a trigger point here because it is so often surrounded by story and beliefs that come from generations past, the “norm” of community around us, or some other outside influence. So look at what’s true for you with regard to all things “important” and “not important.”

That Which Is Not Important

  • TV
  • A Big House
  • Video Games
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Stuff (the things that commercials tell us we need)
  • More than 2 or 3 Pairs of Shoes
  • A Huge Wardrobe
  • Double Master Suite Sinks
  • A “Great Room”
  • A Big Refrigerator (the extra food will only end up rotting)
  • Anything you can’t actually use to make your life better (I mean truly better)

It’s actually really funny that as I write the list of things that are not important, I find that I can’t seem to describe the items I want to list. I wonder why. Perhaps it’s because I really don’t focus on those things anymore? I don’t know. The phrase that keeps coming to mind is “all the junk that our society says we need…when in fact, we really don’t need it.” I had an “aha” moment the other day when we spent a night at a hotel and watched TV. I was so disturbed by all of the commercials (not to mention the programming itself…what a waste of energy) as it seemed that everybody was trying to sell me something. My wife pointed out that this was of course true, as that is the purpose of commercials.

I know it seems silly, but somehow I had not really noticed that I was being bombarded with sales pitches all day long via TV, billboards, radio ads, and more. It had become part of my landscape. Now having been away from it for so long, it was painfully obvious. I bet that if you spent a month without any TV whatsoever, you too would have a similar experience. In fact, many of you may have just taken a deep breath of discomfort just in hearing the suggestion of not watching TV for a month. It has become such a part of so many people’s lives, that living without it seems scary. Why? What will you miss? What might happen to you if you don’t watch TV?

If you are inspired to ask yourself some tough questions, I hope that you will take the time and courage to do just that. Finding out for yourself what things are truly important is a first step to living a simple life. After all, if you don’t know what things really matter, it’s easy to lose focus and spread your attention to all kinds of things. That weakens your energy and your ability to create what you want in your life in the same way that spreading a tiny piece of butter over toast seems to make the butter simply disappear, not increase the flavor of the bread.

So, where to start? I offer this suggestion again: disconnect your TV for a month. Experience your life without it and see what happens. I think you’ll be amazed at how much time you have, especially in the evenings, to do things that inspire you. Read a book, learn a language, play with your family, or discover some other place to find joy in your life. With the TV gone, you’ll have lots of time to really explore other important questions. Maybe make yourself lists of your own. What’s really important? When you know the answer to that question, you can start lining up the details of your life to support those things and to let go of those that are not important and serve only as a distraction from that which really matters.

Want to learn more about tiny house living and how to build a tiny house? Want to do so for FREE? Sign up for our totally free 7 Day Tiny House eCourse! Find out more HERE.


13 Responses to Discovering What Really Matters

  1. Tiffany March 26, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    Your experience with TV reminds me of my own experience with radio. We haven’t had cable or satelite TV, since we were married (18 years ago), but I loved listening to NPR. I was pretty disappointed when NPR began giving airtime to companies (this segment brought to you by…), because they needed funding help. Well, one day I wanted to listen to an oldies station. I never imagined the difference between a commercial station and a public station could be so huge. Their commercials were not only endless, but struck me as an embarrassment to humanity. I cannot understand why anyone would put up with such condescending behavior from companies peddling their wares. If TV is anything like a commercial radio station, I am surprised it gets any customers/subscribers at all! Now, if I could just kick the semi-mindless web surfing habit I have aquired, then I might just reach my own personal form of Nirvana. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I really appreciate you both taking the time to write such meaningful articles.

    • Gabriella March 27, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

      So great to hear your perspective and about your experience Tiffany! 🙂

  2. David Schilkie April 2, 2014 at 8:57 am #


    Your lists of things that ‘really matter’ are awesome! I am also a list maker.
    I am 55 and retiring in a couple months. For years I have contemplated moving into a simpler life. I have done a lot of research in that direction. Since I left my parents house as a young man approximately 35 years ago I have NEVER had cable TV.
    I live in a modest 1,300 sq. ft. house in the city. I do have an 8.6 acre lot in the country that I bought many years ago. My intention is to sell my house in the city and have a small house built there when I retire.

    I am still a marginal participant in the scourge that I refer to as FaceCrack. It will very soon get the hook. I initially subscribed to it to keep in touch with friends who had moved all over the world. It just seems to be a place where people post all sorts of their useless information they think other people really want to read. REALLY!!!

    I think that our society, mainly through the media, brainwashes or tricks us into believing that we NEED more stuff and things. It is the old keeping up with the Jones’ mentality. Work more, put yourself into more debt to impress people that you really shouldn’t be trying to impress. Impress yourself if you need material goods to make you feel good about yourself. There is something inherently wrong with that mentality, in my humble opinion.

    Anytime that I see something that interests me I revert to the needs and wants inner conversation, sometimes actually out loud to the detriment of anyone within earshot. “Do I really need this 60″ LCD flat screen TV or will my old 24″ crt TV suffice? The picture is still good, I just sit a little closer to it to get the big screen effect. Maybe not so good for my eyes though”.

    Sorry that I am a little long winded and I hope that you don’t mind my attempt at some humour (Please excuse the ‘u’ in humour, I am a Canuck).
    OK, I have just stepped off the soapbox. Sorry about that.

    I guess my point is that I love the way you two think, it just makes SO much sense. It is refreshing to see people like yourselves making a conscious effort to improve and simplify your lives. Less day to day stress, hopefully leading to a longer, healthier life.

    • Gabriella April 4, 2014 at 8:30 am #

      It’s so nice to hear from you Dave!! I just saw yesterday a quote on FaceCrack that said something along the lines of, you buy a bunch of crap that you don’t need, in order to fill your house that is too big, to impress people that you don’t really like. Right in line with what you were saying. I look forward to hearing from about your own adventure!

  3. Kim April 28, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    My husband and I switched off our TV on 28/2/14 and haven’t used it since! Astonishingly, especially for me, we have not missed it at all! I’m sure you understand what a relief it is to no longer be bombarded by those maddingly repetitive adverts every few minutes. It was one of the best decisions we made …
    By the way, your new tiny home is beautifully designed, and thoroughly inspiring – thank you for sharing your journey towards accomplishing the building of it!

    • Gabriella May 1, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

      Thanks Kim! Yeah…death to TV. 😉 And I love that you know the exact date it was shut off.

  4. Jeremy May 8, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    I found your site via a shared post on FB, (the tour of your hOMe.) After signing up for your e-course, I have to say this blog post and Day 1 of the e-course have had a profound effect on my thinking. My family and I are beginning the declutter process and it is already helping us move to better decision making. Your question that got me thinking was –

    “What if you could have a home that totally met your needs and that you could thrive in but it cost you a mere 1/10th of what you would normally spend building a traditionally sized house? A home that you loved that you didn’t have to pay a mortgage/rent to live in? What would you spend that extra money on? ”

    And this statement is what hooked me, – “For us, our extra income now goes towards buying the best quality food we can, traveling, taking family and friends out, and investing into our future. We feel that we are able to say “Yes!” to so many more new experiences now than we could before.”

    For a long time I’ve been trying to give my kids experiences rather that ‘things’. Your site has renewed my desire to this. Not only for my kids, but for the entire family.

    Working to only pay the bills / mortgage is not living, and I feel like we’ve taken a major step forward in moving away from that.

    Thank you so much, and keep up the good work!

    • Gabriella May 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

      When I read your email it totally brought tears to my eyes. I am so so so happy for you. And your family. Go for it. Your life will never be the same.

      Keep us posted on your beautiful journey.

    • Shawn August 15, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

      Awesome post, mirrors my own internal dialogue right now… rethinking a lot of my life at this point, have been for about a year I guess (just turned 41…go figure ha!)

      The idea of actually living a fun life I can afford, instead of trying in vain to attain or maintain a life I cant, because someone told me that’s what I want, is starting to seem ludicrous. Have less, do more is really something that has a resonance with me right now.

      I am blessed that one of my best friends and his wife are starting the same line of thinking. I might be lucky enough to find myself a member of a small tribe of people who travel down this less trodden path.

      The future excites me!

      • Gabriella August 16, 2014 at 10:55 am #

        Thrilled for you!! Keep us posted 🙂

  5. Patty July 19, 2014 at 5:34 am #

    I was raised outside of a small hick town in the middle of no where. My mother was a queen at making money stretch. She made clothes, patched clothes, and shopped at yard sales a lot. She raised some animals for slaughter. She had a huge garden and we were always picking berries and apples. She canned what she could for the winter and made jams and jellies. She knitted, crocheted, and quilted. It sounds like a lot of hard work and I’m sure it was, but she seemed to have a lot of time to spend with us kids. We didn’t get cable and didn’t watch much tv anyway. We spent most of our time outdoors and used our imaginations to play as we didn’t really have very many toys. I remember one winter we used the hood of an old car for a sled; fastest sled I ever had, but the steering wasn’t so good. I enjoyed my early childhood, but things changed when I got into school with the town kids. My patched up blue jeans and worn out shoes seemed to forever mark me as unworthy of their friendship and labeled me as a bully’s doormat for my whole school career. Hey don’t let anyone tell you only boys are bullies! Girls are just as bad, if not a little worse. I spent all of my teenage years and a few of my young adult years trying to get out and then I did. But now that I have lived in the real world and have some experience under my belt, and my mother is no longer alive to share her wisdom, I long for those simpler times again. I’m not talking about an adult wanting to go back to childhood, but I mean back to a time when having just enough was enough. My mom worked hard at it, but looking back on it now, I don’t think she would have changed too much. (I would hope that when she went to yard sales she would go to those outside the school district I went to!) I’ve dreamed and planned about the lifestyle I want, a simpler, more sustainable, more independent lifestyle. While it is still out of reach at the moment, I have started making conscious decisions to move us in that direction. I think a tiny house would fit rather snugly in those plans as we could park the house on my mother-in-law’s property and live rent free until we could purchase our own property. Once we had our own property we could build a small permanent home (I’m thinking cordwood) and my mom-in-law could move into the tiny house because it’s just her now and she wants to downsize as well. It would be a win-win!

    • Gabriella July 19, 2014 at 8:18 am #

      Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story Patty! Warms our hearts to hear it. I’m so glad that you have come to a place where you can appreciate how you were raised. From your perspective it sounds ideal in so many ways. It sounds like the experience gave you a deep understanding of joy and that it doesn’t come with material possessions. Please keep us posted on your journey. 🙂

  6. Corie Haustein January 27, 2021 at 7:51 pm #

    Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you present. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed information. Great read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

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