Our goals – 1 year later

by Bella

Where are we at one year after posting our goals? Adapting and changing. This is a family made up of individuals who are growing and changing all the time. In that process, we often have to change our path, though our end goal remains the same.

One constant is our desire to achieve voluntary simplicity. We just keep revising our ideas on what that is and how to get there.  As we learn more, and environmental factors impact us, we make the necessary adjustments.

The goals we set a year ago were our ultimate dreams. It’s great to have dreams and to strive to achieve them. The real world may have other plans for us. Keeping that in mind, here are those same nine goals and where we are today, one year later.

  1. to be free of boxes of stuff. If it’s not something we use on a daily basis and truly need or love, it’s got to go. Jack has done a fantastic job of selling our excess stuff. We don’t really have a lot left as he has made a huge dent.
  2. to eat only simple foods that are nutritious, organic, vegetarian/vegan whole foods that are easy to prepare. We strive everyday to find the best quality, healthy, but simple foods to eat and have become inventive with our recipes. Jack and Bo decided late last year to reintroduce some meats into their diets, but I have remained vegetarian and have avoided most animal products. We eat mostly whole natural foods, cooking vegetarian recipes, to which Jack and Bo often add a bit of meat. We did have to start a “meat box” in the fridge to keep it separate from the produce.
  3. to live in an environment where we can bike, walk or use public transport and be car free. We do live in an environment where this is technically possible provided we stay in our isolated small town for everything and forever. Because that’s not an appealing concept to us, we keep and use a vehicle. I do walk to work 95% of the time, John works from home and Bo studies from home, so our vehicle use is minimal.
  4. to be able to fit all of our possessions into one small bag each and only one small container of kitchen supplies. Not even close. We still have a long way to go on this. After a long talk with Bo when she expressed a strong desire to stay put until she finishes her high school education, we decided to keep a few comforts to make our place feel like a home. See numbers 5 through seven for more info.
  5. to travel, to live, to love life without the constraints of maintaining a home, having excess physical possessions or working at jobs we that don’t feed our spirits. Without the stuff, we don’t need the home, without the home, we don’t need the jobs. This is where the dream and reality conflict comes into play. Our daughter Bo doesn’t want to do this until she finishes school, and then she wants to go it alone like her older sister who lives in Australia. We raised very independent kids. When she told us this, we stalled our travel plans because we always put our kids and their happiness first. Since that time, financial reality has sunk in. We have the money to travel and explore, but not the location independent income source to be able to maintain that lifestyle for long. We are working on a revised goal that will temper the dream with the reality. It is a work in progress. We live in a month-to-month rental that is fairly stable and inexpensive. Because of this, if our situation were to change, we have the freedom to get back on track with our travel dreams.
  6. to generate an income from things that we enjoy. I like my job, but, as I said, it’s not location independent. In fact it’s very much tied to one building. Jack, though he works from home, and, as of yet,doesn’t earn enough to support all three of us. He likes what he does, and is looking for new ways to grow his business.
  7. to have the time and money to travel and explore our passions. See number 5 about financial reality.
  8. to post on this blog weekly to track our progress and hopefully help others. I now want to revise this to say, to post on this blog when I find inspiration and want to share it with the world. I have so many ideas that I want to share, and I want to do it with passion, so I plan to write when I’m excited or fired up about something. I also have so many things that I want to do. Blogging is just one of those things. IF I focus too much on blogging, I’ll burn-out; so I’ll try to maintain a balance. I hope to get Jack involved. He’s full of ideas that I’d know people would enjoy reading about.
  9. to start a YouTube channel about our adventures by the end of this year. I’m proud to say that I did start a YouTube channel where I posted a video and had fun doing it. The video wasn’t about adventure, but it was about something I’m passionate about, genetics and genealogy. I will most likely post more on a variety of topics in future.

So there you have it. We’re real people, sharing our journey. Voluntary simplicity remains our main focus, and we continue striving toward achieving our dreams. As we succeed and inevitably, sometimes fail, we will continue sharing our story.


Super Cute Japanese Ami Elephants

by Bella

My last post talked about Zen inspiration. The simplicity associated with Zen Buddhism is not the only traditionally Japanes thing that I find myself drawn too.

A few months back, I shared pics of some of the little amigurumi toys that I make. My favorite pattern is a true Japanese pattern. It’s definitely the most complicated of all the ami I’ve ever made, but so worth the effort and pretty intense focus required. Thank you to Stephanie from All About Ami for translating the pattern and posting it for free with loads of pics and drawings that make it much easier to follow.

I’ve made 3 of them to date. The first one, I sold and have had requests for more. The two pictured here are special requests. One is for someone who was actually born yesterday. LOL!  A grandma ordered it for her grandson. Lucky I finished it early as he was 10 weeks premature. Don’t worry – I’m happy to say that the grandma says he’s doing well. The other elephant is for our eldest daughter. That’s right, we have another daughter, an absolutely gorgeous, very independent, highly intelligent and adventurous 19 year old. No, I am not biased. It’s all true. If anything, my description is an understatement. The sweet little elephant with the pink roses will be flying across the pacific to live with and be cared for by her in Australia. Lucky little bugger!

2014 Box Free Family in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. I love WordPress; they surprise and motivate us with things like this. I want to be open and share this with you. In 2014, we showed many sides of ourselves from how we enjoy life and the healthy foods that we make and eat to the choices we make and why. In 2015, we will continue sharing, showing and hopefully growing. If there’s anything you want us to cover, let us know in the comments. Happy New Year.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 350 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

How to start a new school year stress-free

by Bella

I’m sure parents of school-age kids who are reading this know exactly what I mean about back-to-school stress, both mental and financial. There’s school supplies, clothes, backpacks, transportation to be bought and/organized and schedules to be rearranged. We managed to avoid ALL of this. The transition into this new school year was nearly effortless.

The choices we’ve made for our lives aren’t for everyone so when reading this bear that in mind. We’ve found what works for us. In this case, it’s online high school.

Our teen daughter attends a virtual high. It’s free, she didn’t need any new clothes, no new backpack, and no transportation. She has a laptop computer (the school will even supply this if you don’t have one), a desk, a chair, a few pencils and a notebook. She can even work at her own pace which means that she can finish each semester early or take time as she needs it to do the things that inspire her like playing guitar and going for a swim.

This has been the easiest start to a school year that we’ve ever had. It’s even easier than when I home schooled, because I didn’t have to prepare a curriculum and search for and buy books and supplies.

Online school fits in with our goals, lifestyle and personalities. We didn’t have to accumulate loads of stuff, we saved money, our daughter will have time and we’ll have the money for her to pursue other interests, and she won’t have to be in a hectic and noisy school environment which can make it hard to focus.

There’s always a challenge, and in this case it’s the lack of social interaction. Many online schools offer student meet-ups and activities. We, however live in a remote small town where such meet-ups aren’t really practical. There are other options that we’re pursuing: our daughter volunteers and is considering getting a job and possibly taking dance lessons.Each of these things will give her the opportunity to meet new people and hopefully to make new friends.

We feel very fortunate to have the option of virtual high school available to us, and we now look forward to the beginning of the school year with no shopping, and no stress.


Voluntary simplicity, it’s not just about minimalism

by Bella

We don’t like to define ourselves with terms like minimalists, vegetarians, environmentalists, or even alternative, though I will sometimes use them for the sake of simplicity. The reason we don’t like to define ourselves by such terms is that they are stereotypes. We believe that in labeling ourselves with these terms we’re just putting ourselves into another box.  

Ultimately, we’re just doing what’s right for us and what makes us happy. In doing so, we always try to take into account how our decisions impact other people and the environment. We’re not obsessive or even strict about the choices we make. We’re open to new information and sometimes that information alters our course, and that’s OK.  

What we’ve discovered in our journey to where we are now is that without knowing it, we’ve independently ended up on a path that is shared by many others. It’s a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity. We are not alone in our desire to get out of the box.

Image: Galactic Human. “Out of the Box.” Drawing. Mission Galactic Freedom. 7 Nov. 2012. 7 Nov. 2012 <http://missiongalacticfreedom.wordpress.com&gt;


For us It all started with what we ate back in 1996. We went vegetarian, eating mostly Indian food that we made ourselves using Krishna cookbooks. In doing so we discovered some of the most delicious recipes in the world, but more importantly, we realized that the food we ate had a direct impact on our contentment.

I’ll put links below to our favorite Krishna cookbooks and a great website for Krishna recipes and cooking pointers.

Food became a focal point in our lives. Preparing it together was just as important as sitting down together and taking the time to consciously savor every bite. The fact that the ingredients were ethically in line with our thoughts on animal sentience and the environment made the food taste even better.

Ever since that time we’ve been very aware of the food choices we make. Educating ourselves about how foods are produced and prepared and about their nutrient content has led us to change our diets and numerous other aspects of our lives and ultimately down the road we’re now on, the road to voluntary simplicity.

Voluntary simplicity touches all aspects of life, food, lodging, clothing, travel, and recreation to name a few. We’ve simplified the way we live and as the name of this blog implies, removed the boxes from all aspects of our lives.

We currently eat whole foods that are not processed or genetically modified, are organic and generally sold in bulk, not in boxes.

We live small and dress simply. No boxes of ornaments for every holiday. No boxes of clothes stored for future use. No boxes of stuff we don’t need or use daily.

We endeavor, as often as possible, to get out of the small box in which we sleep and eat (our apartment) and to explore the world and fill our lives with experiences rather than physical items.

Most importantly, we make our choices in life not based on what we think we’re expected to do, but on what’s right for us independent of stereotypes and independent of boxes.

Krishna cooking resources that we highly recommend:



The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking by Adiraja Dasa    
Great Vegetarian Dishes by Kurma Dasa
Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi


Cooking with Kurma