Google “living simply” and you’ll get millions of results – essays, blogs, books, websites, conferences. Clearly, living with a smaller environmental footprint – more intention, less stuff – is an appealing idea that’s gaining popularity. Now more than ever, it’s critical for those of us with a choice to simplify our lives and reduce our impact on our planet and its climate. This month, we will be publishing three profiles of people in our community who have chosen to simplify their lifestyles and enrich the quality of their lives. Shirley Perez West wrote these stories for the winter 2014 edition of the UsedNews, our free print and online quarterly newsletter.
Rebooting to Focus on What’s Important
By Shirley Perez West
Sheryl Balthrop may be the last person you’d expect to seek out a simpler life. As a transactional and trial lawyer, partner in the firm Gaydos, Churnside and Balthrop, and president of the Eugene Chamber of Commerce (all work she loves), Sheryl surprised a lot of people when she and husband Dave decided to “reboot” their lives.
It started in May 2013, while on a road trip listening to a “Simple Life Together” podcast. They asked themselves, why aren’t we doing this more? “We didn’t have a good answer,” Sheryl says. The couple began delving into the idea of living more simply and creating “margin” in their lives—as in freed up time, resources, and space.
“Our old concept was that we needed to have a big house, a lot of stuff, and an exceptionally packed schedule in order to have bona fides of being successful. We wanted to challenge that,” says Sheryl.
That was more than 18 months ago. Since then, Sheryl and Dave have jettisoned 80 percent of their belongings, sold their house, and started a blog. Their Simple Life Reboot blog is a way to share their journey, keep focused and accountable, and inspire others. It’s also been a great project to tackle together. While their old living room was “a museum,” their new living room is a work space, set up with adjoining desks. Instead of watching TV, Sheryl and Dave spend time writing their blog, kicking around ideas, and learning together.
“When you start freeing up things, you just have more of yourself to give away,” she says.
In the past year, they’ve expanded their reach by recording podcasts, and they were recently featured speakers at a small conference promoting simple living. They’ve also found the time to visit with their grown children who live out of state and to focus on their health.
“Who knew that this could be a weight loss program?” says Sheryl, who lost 50 pounds since simplifying her life. The reboot gave the couple “a little more leeway time-wise,” she says. “We went back to running and walking and lifting.”
Though Sheryl had pared her wardrobe down to a few essentials, she needed to replace clothes as she lost weight. Now, she says, she has much higher requirements for her clothes.
“I’ve been very, very intentional, trying to keep it coordinated and minimal. I have a very small core wardrobe, and I alternate between two pairs of shoes. Packing is easy!” she says. “I haven’t felt that anyone has looked at me and felt I don’t look presentable.”
Sheryl says she and Dave were delighted to speak at the SimpleREV conference in Minneapolis this fall. “They were interested in professional stigma. How is [simplicity] perceived in the professional realm?” she said. The conference was an eye-opener for them as well.
“I think I still had this sense that many people in the simplicity movement were wanting to somewhat disengage or move away from their community…and I was really energized that people are looking at it as a way to leverage their involvement and spend more time in their community.… I saw folks wanting to have a greater impact rather than withdrawing.”
For the future, the couple wants to keep challenging themselves to learn and grow. “Our biggest concern is that we’ll start getting comfy again,” says Sheryl. “That kills creativity and growth. I hope to do more speaking and working on my photography for the blog. And I love being an attorney. I want to find more and more ways to integrate intentional life choices with professional accomplishments. We don’t have to retire to grow and make contributions of this type. This is the kind of rejuvenation that lets people recommit.”
Simplelifereboot.com — Dave and Sheryl Balthrop’s blog about their journey to “make room for that which matters most:” http://simplelifereboot.com/