Moving And Minimalism - Part I


Moving is a stressful time.  Even with everything planned to the last detail, it rarely goes as planned.  Sometimes, decisions have to be made in the moment.   Practicing minimalism doesn’t ensure a stress-free or quick moving experience.  However, moving is a great time to examine what you have  and what you need.

The previous move for Tracie and I was from a 1000 sq. ft. Apartment down to 650-ish square feet.  We purged a lot of excess and we’ve been consistent with the number of things coming into the apartment matching the number of things going out as well as the quality, value and usefulness of those things.  650 square feet can get cramped real quick if you aren’t mindful about what you bring into your space.  Moving is a great revealer.  It shows what we’ve been making use of and what we’ve hidden away until later.  It shows what we don’t want to deal with.

Moving is also revealing to us that as much as minimalism is a part of our daily lives, there is always room for improvement.  The space we’re moving into is not much bigger - literally a difference of a few square feet so we don’t gain any significant amount of room.  What we do gain is more natural light for ourselves and our plants, a more traditional floor plan and layout and better cell phone reception (we hope, we’re moving up a few floors).   We have another day or so before we’re done.  In that time we hope to also gain more insight into ourselves and our practice.  Check back in a few days as I’ll be posting about what we learned about the process and about ourselves.  Have you ever moved to a smaller space before?  What was your experience?  Let us know in the comments.

Minimalism And Relevance


Some of us have never known a world without a computer, a smart phone or instant access to information.  As technology has advanced and access has become more prevalent, people are scripting their lives to prove how important they are and why you should care about them.  People are seeking validation and relevance from their titles, their possessions, and from strangers.  They are showcasing what they value - what they think makes them relevant.   

Cheap technology, disposable products, social-media-famous people, celebrity worship and gadget envy are quickly becoming the new normal.  I’m certainly no luddite (I am writing this on a MacBook after all), and lets face it, most of us have smartphones and laptops and are distracted by Instagram and Facebook probably more than we should allow.   I’m also just as guilty as the anyone for wanting  to justify buying a new gadget or wanting to throw money at a situation that planning, contentment or attention to detail could have solved.  However, technology does have it’s place.  It can provide access to information and events, or expose injustices that would have been hidden otherwise.  People from half a world away can inspire and guide us to become better versions of ourselves - people who we wouldn’t have had access to if it weren’t for our gadgets.  

Sadly, our society has become increasingly addicted to consumerism and superficiality and are using these as a benchmark for their own and other people’s level of relevance.   It’s tragic because despite having more money, more gadgets, bigger houses, more likes, more friends or more status, their level of unhappiness and lack of contentment has either stayed the same or worsened. So they buy more stuff or get more likes  or try to gain more popularity hoping that more makes them more relevant and hopefully, happier - like a dog trying to catch it’s own tail - you’ve caught it, now what?!?

What is relevance from a minimalist point of view?  The answer is as varied as the people who practice minimalism.  Obviously, a basic axiom of minimalism is the elimination of the need to have more for the purpose of having more.  Practicing minimalism opens you to contentment, to a happiness that originates from within,  and to the knowledge that you have everything you need and you value everything you have.  In turn, you can share this with the people you love, your community and the world around you.  Our relevance originates in who we value and how we value ourselves, not from our things or from social media.  When we’ve taken care or ourselves and have treated ourselves kindly and with love, when we strip away what’s superficial and what’s unimportant, we find relevance, we are practicing minimalism.  You make you relevant, not your things.


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From The Yellow Sofa

By: Carl Nickles

There are things you have thought about doing that would seem rewarding.  There are things you wish were different.  How many of those do you have a desire to change?  Thinking about doing something or wishing that something would change will not make it happen.  Discovering what your desires truly are is the starting point to achieving anything.

Desire is where change begins.  To change is to be in almost perpetual motion.   Sometimes in a single direction toward a well defined end,  sometimes an any direction to find what does and doesn’t work.  True desire, not wishes or dreams, stay with you and can drive you even at the inconvenient times or when you’re the least motivated and inspired.

As I’ve been writing these posts about change, I’ve been looking at myself physically, mentally and intellectually and making comparisons between where I am and what I want.  Some things have not been matching up and change is long overdue.  I’m confident I’m not alone in this.  It’s time to get a pen and paper (or laptop) and write down what   you truly desire.  I’ll share mine in the next blog when we talk about mindset - believing you can change. 

What do you desire to change in your life?  What have you put energy into to affect your current situation and your life?  Let me know in the comments.

For Fear Of Great Change

from the yellow sofa

By: Carl Nickles

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To make a any change in your life, no matter how small, you need key ingredients - Desire, belief, planning, discipline and progress.  They are all interconnected and they can all be destroyed by fear.  Fear can alter your belief in yourself and it can kill desire preventing it from growing into passion.  Fear can sabotage your  plan which prevents you from being disciplined. Without discipline and consistency, progress is nearly impossible to attain.

How do we eliminate or manage fear, particularly when it comes to writing? A suggestion I read in Brenda Ueland’s book called “If You Want To Write” reads “I’ve found that many gifted people are so afraid of writing a poor story that they cannot summon the nerve to write a single sentence for months.  The thing to say to such people is:  ‘See how bad a story you can write.  See how dull you can be.  Go ahead.  That would be fun and interesting.  I will give you ten dollars if you can write something thoroughly dull from beginning to end!’  And of course no one can.”  

If your desire is to write, then make the plan to write often (daily) and believe that you can do it.  Show up and watch yourself improve.  Write freely, fearlessly, and even horribly.  Above all, shed light on your fears and kill them before they derail you.  It won’t always be easy or “fun”, but great change rarely is.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  What are some ideas and methods you use to get past the fear of writing?  Let me know in the comments.

From the movie After Earth:

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.” - Will Smith


From The Yellow Sofa

By: Carl Nickles

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All of us at one time or another have wanted to change something about ourselves or set and reach a new goal.  Most of us have many things we would like to accomplish or change.  One of the quickest ways to failure and frustration is to attempt too many changes simultaneously, especially with no plan in place, little belief that you can change and no discipline and consistency.

Is focusing on one small change or maybe a couple of changes that are tied together give you a better chance at succeeding?  Or can you be successful at a complete makeover - tackling all of your changes at once?  How do we get there?  Why do some people fail and others succeed?  In the coming weeks, I’ll take a look at what it takes to change and the roadblocks along the way using some of my own personal goals as an example.  Writing will be the topic of most of my examples, but here is the short list of what I’d like to accomplish:

  • Building my business

  • Writing and completing my novels/books/blogs

  • Learning how to design websites

  • Learning how to play guitar

  • Exercise consistently

  • Practice meditation consistently

All of this while continuing to perform at my day job and nurturing my relationship with my amazing partner, Tracie.  So, what changes have you made in your life recently?  How did you get there?  What were some of the roadblocks you encountered and overcame? Let me know in the comments.

How I "Won" NaNoWriMo

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From The Yellow Sofa

By: Carl Nickles

NaNoWriMo officially ended on Nov. 30.  While I didn’t “win” by completing the 50,000 word count by the deadline, I won in other ways.  This may seem like a petition for a participation trophy, but I think the lessons I learned along the way were as important as the number of words written.  

Winning for me was writing more in the last 30 days than I have since since college.  It was doing something that until recently I thought was reserved for people with years of experience and training or for people who’s entire life had always been a continuous flood of words and ideas.  I  won because I created people, scenes and a world from practically nothing.  

 I won because I have accepted the hard truth that I am, and will always be a planner.  I don’t know how people write 50,000 words of a novel without a detailed outline (I’m jealous), but I apparently need to plan.  Planning has helped me firm up how I want my novel to begin, evolve and end.  

Most importantly, I won because I have written.  Maybe not 50,000 words (not even close), but more than I would have had I not entered the NaNoWriMo contest.  As I alluded to in a previous post about writing, you (I) have to write.  It’s the only way a novel will be completed.  It’s the only way to become a better writer.  I plan on entering next year and I hope I participate every year.  The goal will always be to get the word count to 50,000 but the truly important part will always be the journey of belief, creation, discipline and inspiration.   It’s the little things you learn along the way that matter most.  Those experiences are the “wins”.

I can’t thank everyone enough both inside and outside of the writing community as well as the other participants of NaNoWriMo for their support and encouragement.  If you participated in NaNoWriMo this year but didn’t make it to 50,000 words, do you still feel like you have won (I hope you do)?  Let me know in the comments.

We Buy Black Convention - Atlanta, GA.

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From The Yellow Sofa

By: Carl Nickles

Last week, Tracie and I attended the We Buy Black convention in Atlanta, GA.  The inaugural 2 day event hosted black owned businesses from across the country.  The event featured a live marketplace where owners could showcase their products and speak directly with their customers, business workshops where people could get help with their own business ideas,  and a chance to sit down with business consultants and receive free guidance on how to grow and promote their business.   

There were a wide variety of vendors with products ranging from soaps and lotions , beard and skin care, to laundry detergent, clothing, coffee and even hot sauce.  Tracie and I purchased a few (ok, a lot) of these products.  The vendors were more than happy to talk about their products and even tells us a little about how they got their start and some of the lessons they have learned along the way.

We Buy Black’s mantra is “Remove, Replace, and Rebuild.”  To paraphrase the founder and creator of We Buy Black, Shareef Abdul-Malik: Remove ourselves from depending on other communities for our survival and basic needs, Replace items with products we produce, control and own, and Rebuild our communities to a level worth respecting and protecting.  Their website, serves as a storefront of a variety of products all produced, created, owned and sold by black entrepreneurs.  

For more information, visit and take a look at what they have to offer.

Writing - Why Write?

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From The Yellow Sofa

By: Carl Nickles

Golf.  I’ve never played, but friends tell me that at times, there is an incredible amount of frustration compared to the small amount of joy/success in the game.  The same could be said for getting involved in a land war in Asia (thank you “The Princess Bride”), explaining Star Trek to non-science fiction fans and bathing cats.  Why do them at all?  Striving for a hole in one, debating TOS vs TNG or risking your life by placing a cat in water all sound exasperating.  The same could be said for writing.  So why write?

With writing, there is an entire theme park of frustration and challenges awaiting you.  Finding stories worth writing that are not only interesting to you but to your potential readers, rewriting, revising, editing, rejection letters, criticism (especially from non-writers) and the never-ending work of promoting your story.  Despite all of this, you power through for the hope of one day enjoying a little notoriety, a little money from sales or seeing your book in print.

You may never make a penny off of your writing, you may never be published, so why write?  In spite of all of the people that inhabit this planet, in spite of all of the stories they have told, they haven’t been told by you.  No one else sees the world you inhabit or create exactly like you do.  Telling your story, whether it’s a paragraph or a novel in your voice can be the hole in one , your success, your joy.  That little victory can be worth all of the frustration you endured to obtain it.  So write.

Reflecting On NaNoWriMo Week One

From The Yellow Sofa

By Carl Nickles

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It’s been a week since NaNoWriMo began and I am definitely behind on word count and content.  I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t just a little discouraging.  However, I have made progress and I’ve been happy with the progress I have made.  But there are a few things that I’ve learned in this short amount of time:

1. I wish I had been more prepared.  Preparation has always worked for me in the past.  I believe it would have worked for me now (had I done it).  Writing by the seat of my pants is unsettling.  There are certainly lessons to be learned from this process, but it is definitely not my ideal method.  There is enough that I DON’T know about my story at this point without having a plan/outline from which to work.

2. Write everyday and don’t edit along the way.  I published a blog about writing crap.  That’s arguably the majority of any first draft.  A first draft is typically what is being written during NaNoWriMo for many participants.  This is the time for writing, not editing.  The time for cringing at what you have written and then rewriting it comes later.

3. Don’t stress over word count.  It’s always helpful to have a goal - healthy in fact.  Stepping up to challenges help us expand what is attainable that at one time we thought was impossible.    NaNoWriMo, in my opinion,  is a way to get writers writing with the benefit of having an army of other writers by your side.

I have a lot of work ahead of me, but that would be true even if I had planned ahead anyway so I plan on enjoying the process and learning more along the way.  How is NaNoWriMo going for you?  Let me know in the comments.

Writing Crap

From The Yellow Sofa

By Carl Nickles

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I’ve been learning how to write for the past 4 years.  And I write crap (starting a sentence with “and” doesn’t help).  Like anything else, to become good at it, you must practice.  As you practice, you’ll make mistakes.  If you’re practicing piano, you’ll hit wrong notes.  If you’re writing, you’ll make errors and you’ll write crap!  I’m writing crap right now and I’ll continue to write crap as long as I continue to write. The crap I write a year from now will read better and take less time to edit, but it will still be crap.  

And thats ok.  

Improvement comes by trying and failing, trying and getting rejected and trying again.  You will eventually get more “right” than “wrong”.  Other people will still tell you that you write crap.  People who have written little more than their name since middle school  will tell you that you write crap.  Some other people will read your crap and tell you your crap is great, fantastic, inspiring and life-changing.  

That’s kinda cool.  

 Keep practicing, keep writing.  Let me know in the comments how your writing is going by clicking on the title of this post.  Also, check out our collection of books written by Tracie Chavonne.

The Measure Of A Life


By Carl Nickles

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What is your focus and vision for your life?  Are you consistently working on what you want to accomplish, or have you allowed "stuff" such as tasks (urgent but not important or vice versa), poor planning or relationship drama sidetrack you?  They all need attention to some degree, but there needs to be balance.

Focus can help filter out the “stuff” and make room for a purposeful life.  It can aid you in finding the things or people that inspire you.  Focus can make it a little easier for you to resist a difficult situation, walk away from a relationship that no longer serves you, or a busy, reaction-driven schedule that robs you of time.

Strip away the “stuff” and watch your pursuits and the people you choose to make a priority become a testament to a meaningful life.  While the journey is the roadmap of your focus, the vision is the destination in the distance - the end result and your success in your endeavors and the sense of accomplishment.  Over time, with consistency and practice, it will become the narrative of your life.

Make time to focus on yourself every day - This is one of the most unselfish things you can do for yourself.  What do you need for yourself and from yourself?  Focus on what you want - what you really want and pursue it.  Create a vision with the end in mind.