As of Saturday October 1st, NWEI’s EcoChallenge is underway! Here is one EcoChallenger, Courtney Carver, who blogs at Be More With Less, on A Reason for Change – and how her challenge, and commitment to living simply, is shaping her.

I am not the same person I was 5 years ago. I changed my life and life changed me right back. I am more attentive, rested, hopeful and more fun to be around. I care about completly different things than I used to, and want a different future than I had planned. I don’t say any of this to brag, only to demonstrate that slow, deliberate change may start on the outside, but it works it’s way into your heart and soul. Before you know it, you haven’t just changed a habit, but your life as well.

I didn’t wake up one morning and think, “I want to lead a simpler life.” I didn’t jump out of bed, cancel my cable television, quit my job and throw all my stuff in a dumpster. I didn’t change because I listened to the voice in my head that was screaming at me to slow down and take care. In fact, I didn’t have time to hear that that voice at all.

I made a change because I was sick and tired and scared. I made a change because my doctor said, “You have Multiple Sclerosis”. One small change led to another, but the common thread through every change that I’ve made over the past 5 years has been simplicity.

What I changed and simplified

  • § Food. I stopped eating meat. It took me 3 months to drop meat that came from cows and pigs and another 3 to walk away from poultry. 2 Years later I stopped eating fish & seafood and could finally say that I don’t eat anything with a mother. While I changed my diet for health reasons, it is sustained by compassion. I read books like Eating Animals and Skinny Bitch and realized that not eating animals was good for my heart in more ways than one.
  • § Money. I changed my relationship with money. I think I used to be mad at money. I had to work so hard to get it and then everyone wanted a piece of it. I spent more money than I had because I thought I deserved to. I didn’t know I was punishing myself. Now money is a tool, and not tied to an emotion. With the exception of a house payment, I don’t owe anyone any money and don’t believe that I am owed anything by money.
  • § Stuff. I used to think that stuff made me happy. A new pair of boots or beautiful dining room table brought a smile to my face. Today, I own 50% less than I did 5 years ago and am still letting go of stuff. When I moved from New Hampshire to Utah, I drove a u-haul across the country full of my treasures, my stuff. I only remember 1 item that was in that packed trailer. It was a distressed coffee table/trunk. I loved it because I could put stuff in it and on it. I sold it this weekend. I used to play the “what would you take with you if there was a fire” game, and now I know that there is nothing worth running into a burning building for besides the people and pets that I love.

While summed up in 3 paragraphs, those 3 changes came from several shifts and none of them happened overnight. They each resulted in an opportunity for me to be healthier and happier. Each change gave me a chance to redefine the way I view the world and live my life.

Don’t change to find yourself. Change to know yourself.

While I didn’t plan to completely overhaul my life, over 5 years, that is exactly what I did. If you are thinking about a change, start small. Don’t wait until you have to change.

The most surprising thing about simplicity is that when you clear the clutter from your home and your brain, you have the time and attention to hear that voice inside your head and your heart. By reducing stress, you can have the claritiy and confidence to trust that you know what is best for you and to make the necessary changes.

I needed a reason to change, but realize that if I had changed sooner, I wouldn’t have had to go through the sick, tired, scared part. Knowing that one change will lead to another, where do you want to start? If you could change one thing, what would it be? 

In the spirit of change, I joined the 2011 EcoChallenge 2011. For the first 2 weeks of October, I’ve committed to changing my habits and not using paper towels, plastic bags, plastic bottles or any packaged food. Join the Be More with Less Team and come together to do something nice for the planet (and it’s people). Here is the sign up information: 

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