Morning view from our deck at the cabin in South Dakota

One of the 5 key values that The Minimalists discuss is growth.

Usually I get to come on here and tell you how good we are doing, how great I feel or how easy the challenge was but not today friends.

We are failing at this whole minimal technology thing and failing hard.  We went on a wonderful family vacation to South Dakota and were able to stay relatively on track (partially thanks to poor cell service) but once we got back it was like the rules we agreed to follow this month didn’t even exist.  Neither of us called out the other either, not wanting to give up our own time.  Just checking one thing real fast turns into an hour mindlessly scrolling through facebook posts, instagram feeds and click bait news articles that don’t tell you anything you already didn’t know.

Maybe we are worse off than we thought, truly addicted and unable to stop even if we want to.  But admitting you have a problem is the first step right.  We are Melissa and Kyle and we are addicted to our cell phones.  Everyday is a new opportunity to start over so even though its July 22nd (already?!?!?), we start anew ready to go against something that is obviously so ingrained in us that we are going to have to fight a little harder.

And a couple South Dakota pictures just for fun:




Are we Addicted to Our Smartphones?

Smartphone addiction

Yep. Smartphone addiction. Maybe you’re addicted, or perhaps you know someone who is. You probably already know the symptoms –

• Feeling anxious whenever you do not have your phone in your physical possession.

• Constantly checking the phone for new texts, coupled with the compulsion to respond immediately.

• Did you feel that? Your phone just vibrated, and you felt it. Yet looking at the phone, you realize it’s a false alarm. Phantom cellphone vibration syndrome is real, and it’s a symptom of addiction.

• You’re not listening. In fact, you have no idea what the person in front of you is talking about. Why? Because you keep checking your Facebook page, tweets and texts.

• Failing in School. Poor grades can often be blamed on using the smartphone in classes. There are apps that block social media, which may help.

• Running to the store for 30 minutes and halfway there you realize you forgot your phone and you MUST turn around to get it.


Melissa:  As I look through the symptoms taken from the Psychology Today article linked above, I have more than a few.  If I forget my phone at home it makes me feel anxious and like I am going to miss out on something or that someone will need to get a hold of me.  I rely on my phone for so much: Navigation, information (I google everything), to take photos, texting, constantly chatting on messenger and compulsively checking Facebook for new notifications.  I can definitely relate to the constantly checking and not listening when people (primarily Kyle) are talking to me.

In the past week, I’ve been more aware of technology use in myself and those around me.  Seeing people at a concert we went to glued to their phones and taking a video of every single song rather than just enjoying the music in the moment.  Watching checkout lines at Sprouts full of people checking their phones while they wait a couple minutes for their turn at the register.

Kyle:  Searching images related to phone addiction showed different teens to 30-somethings with a phone shoved in their face.  A phone conversation with my Mom proved it is only a stereotype – phone addiction is widespread (or in this case age-spread).

“But what if there is an emergency?  What if I’m in the hospital on my death bed?” she asked.

What did people do before cell phones?  They waited because rarely is there an emergency that would require an immediate response.  The second statement my mom asked…well I would hope that one-in-a-million-chance scenario never happens I do know that if she were to pass before I got the chance to say goodbye that I spent a lifetime showing and telling her that I love her and she was the best mom.

Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists has more on this topic.

I am so fixated on being present for everyone that I can’t be present at home.  Around the people I am actually PRESENT with!  I can’t sit and play with my daughter without jumping up each time my phone has an alert or call.  My phone is my most frequent dinner companion – and it has to stop.

Addictions have affected my life from smoking to alcohol to gambling.  One thing all addiction has in common is it takes one’s focus away from the truly important things.

The phone doesn’t need to go away.  It does add value to my life.  But the way I use my phone needs some adjustment.

It needs to be MINIMIZED!

Our Experiment of the month

We’ve decided to put down our phones, try to live in the moment and cut down the senseless hours of being sucked down the social media wormhole for all the reasons mentioned above and more.

We are allowed to be on our phones for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening.  That way we can respond to calls or emails.

Otherwise, they are silenced and sitting somewhere unused.  Notifications have been turned off and we can only use them during the day for legitimate reasons like navigating to an unknown place or checking a recipe on pinterest.  No more mindless scrolling and evenings spent connected to our phone barely acknowledging the other’s existence.



Minimalism Game: Week 4


We did it!  We completed all 30 days of the minimalism game!  While it wasn’t easy, it was definitely worth it!

The crazy thing is I still feel like we could get rid of more stuff!  We ended up with a couple totes full of stuff we want to try to sell.  We are giving ourselves to the end of July to sell it and then will donate.  So we actually got rid of way more than 500 since that was not counted.

Hadley’s toys feel so much more manageable and we have a system of getting out one bin at a time and cleaning it up before getting another one down.  We also have made it part of her bedtime routine to clean up anything that is out before she goes to bed so we have a clean living room each night.

Overall our home feels a lot less cluttered (Comparison pics on the next blog).  One learning we are going to take away is to question things more before bringing them into our home.  It is so easy to say sure we will take that and buy things without thinking about where it is going to go and if we really need it.

It was a great month of personal growth and making our space more functional and peaceful.  Our next challenge is to tackle our biggest time waster by cutting down on technology significantly for the month of July and having the most productive month ever!!!

The Minimalism Game: Week 3

What is minimalism?

As I was listening to The Minimalists podcast this week, they posed the question:  How might your life be better with less stuff?  They encouraged their listeners to imagine a life with more time, less clutter and cleaning or whatever it would mean to you have less stuff in your life.


For us it means, less stuff to clean, feeling lighter and a sense of peace.

Week 3 flew by and we had to dig hard for items on a couple of the days.  It is going to be a real challenge to make it to 30 but we are up for it!



The Minimalism Game: Week 2

We have successfully completed week 2.  As the number of items increases each day, the challenge also increases.

It’s been fairly easy to move through the house, choosing an area to focus on each day and finding the required number of items.

Our basement has become the catch all for most of our excess stuff and I have a feeling we will be spending a lot of time down there sorting through our possessions in the last half of this challenge trying to make the audacious goal of completing all 30 days.  Though I heard on the podcast today that some people keep going after 30!

We are working out way through the minimalist podcasts and I (Melissa) read one of their books. IMG_20170615_050402_475.jpg

They have a really neat perspective and I recommend checking out their stuff if you are at all interested in minimalism or simplfying your life!

The Minimalist Blog

Minimalism Game: Week 1

When we moved into our townhome almost 2 years ago, we made a very conscience effort to only fill our space with things we loved and not stuff all our closets and storage spaces to the brim.  Fast forward to 2 years later, our basement looks like a Toys R Us and our closets are a definitely fuller than we would like.

We want it gone!  Our goal is to have a home where we use all the items in it.  No clutter.  We don’t want a “just in case” section sitting around.  So let’s see how the Minimalism Game is going!

When we heard about the game, we knew we had to play.  What a fun challenge to keep adding to the pile of things to minimize out of our lives day after day, upping the stakes by just one item at a time.

just in case

Seven days have flown by.  And stuff has been flying out.  It’s pretty easy to walk around and find things you meant to get rid of but haven’t gotten around to yet like the spray bottle that doesn’t spray and the RCA discman you brought home from school thats been sitting on your kitchen counter for way too many days.

It feels great to get rid of this stuff.  So maybe “Less is More” isn’t just a clever slogan.

The 30-day Minimalism Game

Rules of the game

Both Kyle and myself enjoy The Minimalists and their awesome podcast.  One of the challenges they talk about is the 30-day minimalism game.  The rules are simple.  Basically you get rid of (or donate/sell) 1 item on day 1.  On day 2, you get rid of 2 items.  The challenge is to make it until day 30.  If you make it that far, you will have ridden your space of over 500 items!

I honestly don’t think we will make it through the whole game but here’s to trying.

We will be posting daily pictures on instagram.  Add us if you want to follow along @honeybee2111  @kdenny01

Now the before pictures…

I’ve gone around and taken pictures of every room in our house as they are today (no matter how embarrassing and cluttered).  I will post pictures again at the end to see if the reduction in clutter is easily visible.

We did it!

The Marathon

Melissa:  I am so happy to complete my 2nd marathon.  It was a completely different experience than my first back in 2010.  I felt amazing during most of my training runs and that continued onto race day.  Even though my time (5:45) was 5 minutes slower than my first, physically and emotionally I felt 100 times better.  As we entered the final mile, I couldn’t help but well up after all the early mornings, pushing through runs I didn’t want to do and fighting off cravings and sugary temptations along the way.  I felt accomplished and proud of myself.  Now just planning the next one!

Kyle:  Finishing my 11th marathon was one of my toughest. During mile 18 I started having a bad side ache. It was walk run for a few miles. I felt completely helpless. I was happy to have Melissa there encouraging me on.   It was really awesome about 100 yards from the finish we saw my mom, stepdad, and Hadley. Her smile carried me to my medal!

After surviving nearly 6 months without added sugars what have you learned?  Any new product stand out or make its way into your new routine?

Kyle:  I had a conversation with someone from my men’s group a couple months ago. “Do you enjoy food?” He asked.

Life is too short to not enjoy yourself. But you can’t be dumb either. While a donut is awesome, a life a diabetes is not. Moderation is key but even not allowing myself sugar it expanded my diet. I made an amazing Oreo dessert out of plantains!   I made awesome smoothies and found a way to enjoy coffee that wasn’t loaded with sugar.

A product I’m keeping around is the Sweet Leaf drops. They have been amazing and I will continue using them in my coffee.

Melissa:  I think the takeaway for me is awareness.  Before this challenge and our previous one, I used to dump sugar all over the majority of my meals in the form of syrup, ketchup, BBQ sauce and dressings.  Now I think twice about these things.  We decided that we aren’t going to buy ketchup (if you come over bring your own..haha) and are only going to allow it at restaurants.  I bought creamer and expected it to make my coffee taste amazing.  It really didn’t.  I ended up adding a bit of creamer with unsweetened soy milk.  That tasted a lot better to me.  I also went back to my drink at Starbucks (vanilla iced coffee with a splash of soy) and I don’t really like it anymore.  My tastes have seriously changed and I am totally okay with that.

Now what?

Since both of us do so well with rules and competition, we’ve decided to live by “The Sugar Rules.”  These were things both of us could live with and we really feel it will help us to make a permanent change and keep ourselves in check.

  1. You can only consume foods with 10 grams of added sugar or less per serving.
  2. You may have 2 “cheats” per week and consume something without checking the sugar content.
  3. You may visit Starbucks 2 times per week and get a drink with added sugar.
  4. Use artificial sweeteners sparingly.

Because life without a challenge is boring. 


The Home Stretch


Race day is upon us.  Two more sugar free days.

It’s been almost 6 months.

Melissa:  I was grocery shopping yesterday and thinking about picking up a couple items with sugar for Monday and beyond.  I stopped by the cereal because we never found a cereal without added sugar so we haven’t had cereal since December.  All three of us enjoy cereal and it is such an easy breakfast.  I started looking at a couple choices and automatically scanned the label for sugar without even thinking about it.  The first box had 13 grams per cup, second box 11 grams, third box had 7 grams.  In each ingredient list sugar came up 2nd.  UGH!  Why is cereal so full of sugar!  I left the store empty handed and discouraged.  I don’t think we will be getting back on the cereal train anytime soon.


While somewhat discouraging, its also good.  I think I’ve realized that I can live with A LOT less sugar in my life.  I really hope that this sticks more than the last experiment and we create a new normal.

Kyle:  the week has been good. I made a cookie dough, probably the third sugar-free recipe I’ve tried. It used cream cheese and no flour. It was a bit rich so I added flour to make it doughier. 

I have learned so much. Yes agree with Melissa:  I will not be starting my day off with a bowl of sugar. Or in my coffee either. 

I still may not drink coffee black but I’m a whole lot closer than I was before. 

Now the real challenge begins. Without an end date or challenge end what will become of my new habits?  Will I fall back into old ways?  Will I gulp 60g of sugar in an energy drink or load my coffee up with cream?  I am looking to a donut but not everyday and not a half dozen in one sitting. 

This time will be different. I can’t wait to make changes!


Sugar-free vacation

What is an interesting affect sugar has on the body?

Kyle:  I learned last week that sugar affects cholesterol levels. I have struggled with high cholesterol numbers my entire adult life.

More than 6 years ago we began a vegan diet. My numbers improved. I was near 300 eating the standard American diet but in nearly six years of ditching Animal proteins and dairy my numbers fell to 229.

Not in the safe zone according to the American Dietician Association. But my doctor felt with my diet and marathon running that he wasn’t worried.

My Mom shared some reading with me a few weeks ago. It said sugar consumption was linked to high LDL (bad) Cholesterol.

I will get tested before this challenge’s end and see if there is improvement. This is something no doctor has ever mentioned (doctors are required only 1 credit hour of nutrition education).

Melissa:  I have always heard that sugar consumption increases belly fat.  Last time we did this and this time as well, I was surprised in the way my body seemed to lose weight in different places than when I lost it with traditional dieting.  I weigh the same as we did when we got married but my body is a completely different shape at this weight than it was before (in a good way).  I have to link it to abstaining from sugar.

*I will take a before and after picture and post it at the end of our challenge*

Weeks In Review: 

Kyle:  Vacation to California for Spring Break was a blast.  We ate at many fantastic vegan restaurants, hung out with family and relaxed.  We allowed artificial sweeteners so we got to enjoy yogurt at Yogurtland but had to skip deserts at many of the places we went to.  We got iced coffee at Starbucks with the sugar-free vanilla syrup.  I couldn’t tell a difference!  I definitely think that is one thing I might stick with – although no sweetener, ideally, is where I would like to get to.

We still got in our runs.  Always fun to run in the different scenery.  Oh, and on the flight I got seltzer water.  It was good and satisfying, so there are sugar-free options even on the flight!

Melissa:  It was easier than I thought it would be to continue our sugar free journey on our trip to California for Spring Break.  We went a little crazy on Starbucks after barely having it the last 3 months.  Unlike Kyle, I find the sugar free syrup to be a little bitter.  I started the trip by ordering my iced coffee with sugar free syrup and they would do the normal pumps of syrup.  By the end, I would order one packet of Stevia and just 2 pumps of syrup.  That tasted a lot better to me.

My grandma is a huge proponent of eating lots and lots of ice cream.  We knew this prior to the trip and asked her to pick up some Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom no sugar added ice cream.  It is absolutely delicious.  By no means is it a health food but it was nice to indulge a little on our trip while still sticking with our agreed upon rule of no added sugar.



A couple pictures from our trip: