Eliminating Life's Artificial Ingredients

So I threw it out there. Do you need a hand?

Being minimalist, or always working at it (I just got rid of a two bags of stuff today), but I realized it might not be as easy for others out there.

They might be stuck. Too much stuff, where to begin, “This means a lot to me”, “I might need it again (yeah, in five years), etc. These, and more are scripts we tell ourselves, stopping the process to simplify our lives.

It’s not that simple to live simply.

I decided to help anyone that asked, but I had to offer first. I didn’t feel like cold calling my friends and asking if they needed help decluttering their homes.
I could imagine the conversation:

Lars: Tim, remember when II stayed at your house for the weekend. Yeah? Well, I think you have too much stuff, decluttering your junk will make your life a lot more enjoyable  and I can help.”

Tim: “Lars, you’re a freakin’ weirdo… I love my stuff… so I want to keep it, and yes, I know my kitchen knives are dull*. I don’t want to live like some monk, with nothing.”

* I have a thing about dull knives.

OK, so you can’t convince the ones that don’t want any help. So I decided to throw it out there on the world of Facebook and see if anyone wanted me to help them. For nothing.

I’ve been thinking about posting this for a while, and finally did.


“Send me message”? argh, the typo kills me .

The results shocked me:

47 Facebook likes, and 24 comments, and 8 people asked for help. Some are not near me, but I’m happy to go within a day’s drive as I don’t have a “real job” anymore. 

I’ve already met with one person, and gone to another friend’s house to begin decluttering.

I’m excited. More to come.

How about you? Do you have an burning desire to help or do something like this? How did you put the word out? Please share in the comments.

03/12/2015 Declutter The World, Habits, Minimalism

This Artificial ingredient was killing me.

“It’s like a Kafka short story…. You build something, and you can’t live in it, you just sit around guarding it.”

- Rodney Mullen in The Bones Brigade: An Autobiography.


I had been ingesting an unnatural, harmful artificial ingredient for over 25 years that induced stress, lack of sleep, and too much time away from what I love to do.

This ingredient, much like many others that Paleo/primal adherents shun, is relatively new in human evolution. With most foods on the Standard American Diet, it seems as if everyone is eating it, and see nothing wrong with it, despite evidence of its harm and their constant complaints about it. In fact, people love it when they stop ingesting it for a couple of days, then complain when they start again.

I didn’t start ingesting this ingredient until I was in High School, and then it was in small doses 2-3 times per week, at most.  Not much more. No major harm, but I like the results. In fact, in the beginning it was probably good for me.

Over time I took it more and more, and over the years I spent most of my waking hours ingesting it, on my way to get more of it, on my way home from taking it, or thinking about it.

Caution: Ingredients have been proven to be harmful to my health.

Yes, in my case, I am talking about working at a corporation. Being a corporate drone, or cog In the machine.

I’ve always had a strong work ethic, I was one of the first of my friends to get a job in High School. I loved the sense of responsibility, contribution, and not to mention, getting a steady paycheck.

Work starts as something you do to make extra money to pay the bills, or save up for something special, like a car. Eventually it becomes an overwhelming force in which you are trapped into with a great dependency, and a fear to keep it.

I’ve never been shy to seek employment, I’ve had the same role for the past 12 or so years, working in high tech sales and account management. Before that, I pursued everything from sandwich making, retail for many many, many  years, bartending, executive recruiting, bartending again, teaching elementary school, market research, consulting, customer support and some I can’t think of right now. These all varied in duration, but yes, I was multi-dimensional, and a quick learner.

The Money was good.

Over the years, as I settled into account management and sales,  I did well, sold a lot, and made a decent living. More money than I ever expected to make. That’s fine, I enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it a bit too much, as instead of growing, and pursuing something I love, I focused on protecting what I had. I was scared to lose the status I had attained, even if it was making me miserable.

Over time, especially the last two years, I found my role slipping into putting out fires, dealing with system issues, client turnover, a whole maelstrom of issues that weren’t what I signed up for, nor suited my strengths. So many moving parts, and NEVER being able to let go. I envied the people with jobs they could let go in their mind once they walked out the door.

For me, that was impossible. I would wake up in the middle of a Saturday night, stressing about a client’s technical issues, on whether I would make my annual quota, to an implementation that went awry and is taking up too much of my company’s time and money.

This artificial ingredient was no longer providing the taste and nourishment I needed to thrive. Lately, I became less effective at my job, in a way, I was checked out, stressed, unhappy, and dreaded every working day.

Is a corporate job an artificial ingredient? Should we all be jobless bums?

I think that modern corporate job, in all its facets is an artificial ingredient that counters a healthy life.  You may thrive in a corporate environment, and wonder what the hell is wrong with me. You may be right, but I’m not going eat something that makes me feel lousy. I wouldn’t want you to do the same.

Some people, like those with celiac disease, can’t take a bite without immediate harmful reaction. For others, the cumulative effects compound over time. Like someone who finds their metabolism slowing down, and gaining weight over the years. You find out you can’t eat like you used to during your 20s.  I was the latter. I put up with the grind for years.. but slowly felt its effects adding up to a unhealthy, miserable situation. Whereas others had an immediate reaction, or never even took a bite of the corporate-life diet, I was able to handle if for a long time.

I live in San Francisco, work in Silicon Valley. The day to day grind, commuting, working late hours, being rushed out of the home in the early morning, drinking coffee to stay awake, looking forward to Friday, the typical break room exchange on Mondaymorning:

Q:  “How was your weekend?”

A: “Not long enough”,

Is that a way to live?

Maybe you thrive at your job, and makes you healthy and happy… but I wasn’t. I don’t know if anyone really is happy. If you are, good for you. I can’t tell you what to eat. If it makes you feel good, then do it.

The Intervention:

Yes, I kept consuming this harmful ingredient, was practically addicted to it, and wanted to ensure my next fix/paycheck didn’t stop. I liked making my next fix stronger by selling more and getting bigger commission checks.

But, someone saw I was no longer healthy, happy, and thriving, and staged an intervention.

I was laid off. “Lars, we’re going to cut you off.

I felt an overwhelming sense of relief, gratitude, and excitement for what’s next. The best part, I don’t exactly know what it will be. I have ideas, and I’m going to pursue them diligently and smartly, applying what works, and discard what doesn’t.

I was too hooked on the money income, and just coasting through it to make this change on my own.

The money made me complacent in pursuing my passions, dreams and what areas I am really good and talented. 

What’s Next?

Am I going to stop working?

No, I’m probably going to work harder than I ever have in my life. But I’m going to be working for me, for what I love, how I can help people, and move my life into something that leaves me feeling alive at the end of the day, not worn out emotionally.

How about you? Have you been given a clean break from your harmful corporate job diet? Did going cold-turkey help, or did you get back on the treadmill? What worked for you?


02/19/2015 Artificial Ingredients, Money, Primal Living

Stand Up!

I’m trying to stand as much as possible these days. I’m not linking to any studies, but there’s plenty out there, go find it.

So, going forward, I’m standing during the scenarios

  • Riding the train to and from work (30-50 Minutes each way)
  • Working from home. (laptop on dresser)
  • Socializing with friends.
  • Anytime it’s not awkward.

How about you? Trying to stand more, walk more, sleep more?


01/05/2015 Uncategorized

Declutter debt

I bought a house in January 2008. If you followed the news, you know that was a bad time to buy as house values plummeted shortly thereafter, even in Silicon Valley.
I decided to hold onto it, as I figured it was an investment (I feel less so these days), and kept it after my marriage ended in 2010.
The loan was both a 30 year fixed rate, which I refinanced twice, and a $60k home equity line of credit (heloc). The lender even sent me a debit card so I could draw money against the equity line. I never did that, and later I received a letter stating basically “Um yeah, you don’t have any equity so you can’t take any cash out.

Too funny. Sort of. That’s fine. I dislike debt and didn’t want to take on any more.

So I paid that heloc down as fast as possible, right?
Umm no. I chipped away at it here and there, but no serious progress, and in 2 years I paid down about $5,000.
In 5 years I paid down a total of $7,000.
I really tapered off paying for 3 years
I’m still sitting on $53k worth of debt as of last year.
I sorta kept the heloc out of mind. The payments were small, around $200-250 so I didn’t think much of it.
But that was just the interest that I was paying every month. I was barely cutting down the principal.
To my regret, I never ran the numbers on how much I would pay in interest over the years. I knew this stuff, because I pride myself in paying off my credit card every month because of the interest charges. But I was not looking the same way towards my heloc.
I ran the numbers on a site called (No affiliation)
Paying the minimum would cost me over $100,000.00 in interest. I just about flipped.
This big mountain of debt was weighing on me, taking up space in my brain, but i was also ignoring it.
I set a goal in March 2014, that I was going to get it from $53k to below $40k.
I hit $39,811.00 just this month(December 2014)!
How did I do it? I looked at recurring expenses I could eliminate and apply it to the loan. Even the $7.99 a month for Netflix wasn’t spared. I didn’t think “Oh, it’s only 8 bucks a month. No no deal.”
No, I thought how much interest would I save over time for those 8 bucks a month.
I don’t know that number, and don’t care.
I just want that debt gone ASAP. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay interest of $100,000!

How about you? Have you neglected a debt and made up for lost time? Or were you smart, unlike me and tackle it head on from the beginning?

12/26/2014 Money

New Focus – Less Stuff Equals More Awesome Life

I’m always going to focus on living as minimalist as possible, or at least how it works for me. Paleo, primal, or ancestral eating is a big component of who I am, and likely will be that way for the rest of my life.

At some point, I’ve gotten rid of as much material stuff as I can, what then? Do I go on a super minimalist adventure, limiting myself to 100 total items?

Nah, that’s not for me. One thing I’ve learned, is getting rid of the junk in your life, be it needless crap, toxic relationships, bodyfat, etc, it creates a vacuum. That vacuum is a perfect opportunity to fill it with awesome.

Awesome what?

In my case, I’ve taken up new interests such as improv, writing, making tons of new friends, educating myself on being a better, more confident person than ever before.

It’s been fun. I’m going to continue sharing and exploring minimalism, and sharing what gifts arise from living that minimalist lifestyle. Where desire for things is replaced with reaching personal goals that money can’t buy.

Stay tuned, and let me know how minimalism has changed your life.


09/03/2014 Habits, Minimalism, Primal Living

New life in a smaller, better place

I now live in a 350 square foot 1 bedroom apartment in San Francisco.

Nothing helps to reinforce my minimalist principles more than forcing myself into a place 1/4 the size of my previous home. The trade off in less space is paid with living in a vibrant and dynamic city.

I’ve rid myself of so much stuff over the past few years I actually need to buy more stuff to furnish this place.

  1. No Sofa
  2. No Dining table

I love it. It’s the perfect fresh start, and I don’t mind other than the hassle of buying and hauling it home.

Many folks out there hold on to their old stuff, imagining how they’re going to use it again. In my case, it was much better to get rid of it, and start anew. If you don’t need it now, make sure if you really need it again. Might as well as clear it out. Will the old stuff work in the new place? Likely not. Toss it!

A tiny new apartment also equals no dishwasher, hardly any cabinets, and next to no counter space. I love those things very much.

This is making my cooking technique even more minimalist, and keeping recipes as simple as possible. Today my braised pork is made with only seven ingredients.

No Dishwasher also makes me limit my dirty dishes. I could easily get a lot of take out, or convenience foods to keep dirty dishes to a minimum. But I’d rather keep my cooking approach to simple, whole, and of course paleo/primal meals, while not making a huge mess. Another challenge! I can’t wait to share more!

Limited kitchen space has forced, or rather, inspired me to revisit all my cooking appliances….  extra whisks, ladles, spatulas, cutlery, measuring spoons ,and mixing bowls… tossed!

Next steps are setting up a hanging pot rack and more hooks to keep what I need, where I need it.

Stay tuned!


02/18/2014 Minimalism, Primal Living

Minimalism is a Luxury

Minimalism is simple in concept, yet more difficult in execution.  It took me a while, but I realize now that minimalism is a luxury.

How so?



n. pl. lux·u·ries

1. Something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort.

2. Something expensive or hard to obtain.

3. Sumptuous living or surroundings: lives in luxury.

Well, I’d say the first two definitely apply to minimalism. As I mentioned before, it took me a while to realize that Minimalism is indeed a luxury.

The past year I’ve spent a lot of time and energy parting with unneeded possessions. I also rented out my house (The rental market in Silicon Valley is ridiculous) and have been living as a bit of a vagabond. I’m still employed of course, but have been working in New York, staying with friends there, and now house/dog sitting back home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Now that I’m a minimalist, doesn’t mean anyone one else is, nor everywhere I go.

The last time I spent any time in a minimalist environment was before moving out of my house in May 2013.  I bring very little with me, but I find  I’m surrounded by material excess and hardly any breathing room no matter where I go. In New York and back here in CA, every place I’ve stayed has too much stuff in my opinion.

Minimalism, so far, has been “hard to obtain”.

Being a minimalist by choice, rather than lack of financial means, is more proof that it’s a luxury.  I have the luxury of getting rid of things by choice.  I don’t have to choose between buying a new pair of shoes or a jacket. Well , I bought them both, and then got rid of them both, eventually! So yes, maybe the pursuit of minimalism is an upper –middle class indulgence. So what? Eventually we all learn that things do make us happy.

How about you, have you achieved an optimal minimalist lifestyle, only to see it disappear the second you leave the house?  Have you stayed with friends or family and wonder why they have so much stuff you can’t even unpack your bags? Please share in the comments!




08/10/2013 Minimalism

Minimizing meal planning and cooking time.

I had not planned on this as a blog post, but I just signed up to a meal planning service to let someone else do a lot of the thinking and strategizing behind cooking effectively and healthfully for a week at a  time.

Ever since I got into cooking about twenty years ago, it was in fits and starts. I used 2-3 recipes multiple times a month, and while I enjoyed the food I cooked, I hated the planning and making lists. I loved looking up recipes, and getting all excited to make something new. But that excitement waned when I tried planning meals for the week ahead.

It’s a lot more fun trying an ambitious new recipe that is bound to be delicious, (I’m having flashbacks to the first time I braised beef cheeks), than putting together a meal plan for the week that minimizes cooking time, shopping, and reduces waste.

Basically, I did and still do what I think a lot of people do, buy a lot of basics, then “kinda wing it” during the week. That means the beef I bought, will likely be paired with the broccoli, or other vegetables, and then I’ll roast some parsnips too. Overall, that would be a nice meal. However, this easily locks me into a comfort zone where I keep making that dish 4-5  times a month.

I want to shake things up!

Last Sunday I was perusing recipe archives, and came across “5 Primal Meals in Just 35 Minutes.” I had not seen this before.

This called to me. I was so excited that I didn’t really care what the recipes were. I just wanted something simple, good (I knew it would be), and have ALL the thinking done for me. 

I wrote it all down the shopping list I was making, and raced down to Whole Foods.

Went to work the second I got home. Granted, it took me longer than 35 minutes as my wild caught King Salmon (previously frozen) was still thawing.

I was done in about an hour. I successfully made all five recipes, and what I’ve had so far has been tasty. 

Here’s a pic of tonight’s Salmon Salad.

Salmon Salad


I just signed up for Mark’s Daily Apple “Primal Meal Plan” (Not an affiliate link, at least yet) and want to try it for a couple of months.

How about you? Would you like to leave the planning to someone else? I love this idea. Do you?

03/26/2013 recipes

Sleep experiment week 1 results

Day One, March 11:

Arrived home at 7:06 pm.  Light five candles and placed them throughout the home. Several sources of artificial light I did not turn off were a few alarm clocks, the microwave, oven clock, and anytime I opened the refrigerator. I did spend about 30 minutes on my smart phone dealing with work emails, then shut it off.

One thing that I hadn’t planned on was it being Daylight savings  time. So the clocks were moved forward an hour the day before this experiment started. That might affect the results, but I’m going ahead.

Bedtime: 9:00 PM. Was yawning a lot before. Read for 30 minutes, then out by 9:45. Up at 5:30 am, and woke up once at 4:30. Approximately 7 or 7.5 hours of sleep.

Day Two March 12th:

Ok, maybe I didn’t think this one through… not only is it daylight savings time, but it’s my birthday this week. That means celebrating and having fun. Being the day before my birthday on March 13th, I went out to dinner with a friend and stayed up late. When I did get home around 10:45, it was mostly candles, and I stayed up til midnight.  Approximately 4-5 hours of sleep.

Day Three, March 13th.

This is my actual birthday, and I go out to dinner again with family this time. Got home around 11:00 pm, and completely forgot about going by candle light only when home.


Day Four, March 14th

I get home from Crossfit around 6:30, and have dinner completed by 7:30. Luckily, with Daylight Savings Time, It’s light out until 7:30 and makes cooking dinner easier than by candlelight.

That has been the main challenge, completing chores and other household duties by candlelight. It also gets in the way of blog writing and research.

Thursday is typically the boys night out, and although I rarely drink nowadays, being my birthday week I made an exception and had a few beers after having a large cider.

Alcohol always disrupts my sleep, and Thursday was no exception.  I got home around 10:30, remembered the candles, and went to bed around 1am after chugging a log of coconut water.

3-4 hours of sleep.

Day Five, March 15th:

Home around 6:30. In bed by 9:00.  Read by candlelight until 9:45 .

9 hours of sleep.


This was more of a challenge than I realized. Granted, this was an unusual week to start(DST, and my birthday), but I’m an impulsive person and did it on a whim,

It’s harder to cook dinner in the dark, clean up after dinner, fold laundry, look for your keys. Damn the refrigerator light is BRIGHT when you open it. Makes you feel like all your effort was wasted when you reach for the butter and get a blast of light that sears your eyes.

Overall, I saw good results from when I was apply to apply the experiment.  I will probably try for a solid five days again, starting this Tuesday. If anything, I’ve learned to enjoy reading by candlelight, which I did on 3 of the 5 nights of this experiment.

How about you? Would you try this? What if you failed? Give it another go?


03/18/2013 Habits, Primal Living

How to fall asleep earlier and easier with candles.


You’re getting very sleepy…..



I’ve always had a problem falling asleep early enough to get a sufficient night’s rest. It’s been like this my whole life, and I wasn’t sure what it was that caused it.

Well, this is a problem that certainly can use some experimentation, and reporting on the results.

My first attempt to deal with this is to remove an artificial ingredient – In this case, light powered by electricity.

I’ve come across a lot of information that artificial light, such as from lamps, computers, TVs, and smart phones disrupt our natural sleep cycles, and delay the onset of our sleep hormone, melatonin. Now there are tons of resources that cover that subject thoroughly, so I’m not going to rehash it all in detail.

In case you want to find out more, in Mark Sisson’s latest book,  The Primal Connection: Follow Your Genetic Blueprint to Health and Happiness’>Primal Connection, he discusses many of the problems contributed to the lack of quality sleep. Problems such as weight gain,  ADHD, stress, hypertension, depression, irritability, sexual dysfunction, thyroid dysfunction, premature aging, the list goes on.

Well, how am I going to tackle the lack of sleep in my life?

First, I am going to remove as much artificial light at night as possible during next week.

I will operate by candle light at home, unless a lamp is absolutely necessary.

How will I monitor my success rate? I’ll report back to you on my average sleep time, bed time, and estimated “when I fell asleep” time for next week, and compare it to the following week when I don’t use the candle light.

How about you? Are you getting enough sleep? What have you tried? Would you do the “candle light only” experiment?

03/09/2013 Artificial Ingredients, Habits, Primal Living