Real Life Minimalists: Courtney Carver

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, we have an inspiring story from Courtney Carver, who shares with us the profound impact minimalism has had on her life and health. Be sure to check out her blog, Be More with Less, and her book, Simple Ways to Be More with Less. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Courtney writes:

I didn’t wake up one morning and think, “I want to lead a simpler life.” I didn’t wake up, cancel my cable television, quit my job and throw all my stuff in a dumpster. I didn’t change because I started listening to the voice in my head that had been telling me things had to change. In fact, I was so busy and overwhelmed that I couldn’t pay attention to the subtle signals. My wake up call was anything but subtle.

There is no known cause or cure for Multiple Sclerosis, but I am sure that MS was my body’s way of rejecting my lifestyle. My quest for more did not resonate for my heart. Working more, spending more, having more and doing more wore me down and literally broke my body.

Being diagnosed with MS in 2006 as a wife and mom to a 11 year old, while working full time (and then some), and training for an MS ride to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis research (oh sweet irony) was my loud and clear message that things had to change.

Knowing that stress impacts health and can contribute to illness and MS relapses, I set out to eliminate as much stress as possible from my life.

  • I cut meat out of my diet and reduced stress on my digestive system and started to make change on a cellular level.
  • I cut debt out of my life and reduced stress on my wallet and marriage. By working together to pay off our debt, my husband and I grew closer and redefined our future.
  • I cut stuff out of my home and reduced the stress that comes from a cluttered atmosphere.
  • I cut meaningless obligations out of my schedule and reduced the stress that comes from busyness.

All of my changes were different, but they had one thing in common: simplicity. By getting simple, and getting rid of what didn’t matter in my life, I created time and space to heal.

Today, six years later, I am healthier and happier than ever before. Minimalism changed me from the inside out, and continues to contribute to a life of hope and joy.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

29 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Courtney Carver

  • Interesting connection, Courtney. I have lupus, but I never made a connection between the need for simplicity with a chronic illness and minimalism. You’ve certainly given me something to ponder, thanks.

  • Mrs Brady Old Lady

    I have MS too and minimalism certainly helps me.

  • Wow, how great to see a real life minimalist post from another of my favourite bloggers, Courtney. Thank you for sharing your journey with us and the impact that simplicity has had on your life. It really is one of those transforming life philosophies that makes a difference to every area.

  • You always such an inspiration! Thank you for sharing this!

  • Great story. Reduced stress is a great by-product of minimalism and simplicity. I have seen several people in my extended family regain their health by making minor adjustments to their diet and simplifying their life. Stress is a major cause of health problems.

    Dan Garner @

  • Gayle

    I’m sure you’ve become aware of Dr. John McDougall and others who are studying the connection between MS and a plant-based diet. Good for you for simplifying in many ways, even while fighting a devastating illness! Cancer was the wake-up call for me. It really helps you define what’s important….the rest is really just “stuff!” God bless you, Courtney!

  • Hi Courtney! Nice to see you here! Your blog has provided me with a lot of great information on simplifying – especially with Project 333. :)

  • My family lives a minimal lifestyle in regards to possessions and we also keep our diet simple. Until reading this, I’ve not really viewed our dietary choices as part of living minimally but it really all is connected. Since we value ‘stuff’ less, we value good, whole foods more and are more concerned about what goes into our bodies than acquiring things!

    I hope your story impacts many others with MS and improves their quality of life!

  • Wow, what an inspiring read :)

  • T

    Courtney–I enjoyed reading you interview and plan on checking out your blog as well. But, I had to comment and say that it makes me sad that you are blaming yourself for your MS. My sister has MS and I know it breaks her down a little bit more each time, and me as well, when we read something about the “MS lifestyle” or the “MS personality.” No one deserves to be diagnosed with MS, no matter what your level of busyness or stress level before the diagnosis. It seems that you are fine believing that your own choices caused your disease, I immediately get defensive of others who read this and think that you are in a way placing blame to EVERYONE who has MS.

  • Great post, Courtney. I remember when, in 2006, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My first thought wasn’t “what am I going to go buy now?” or “I need a new…” My first thought was that of my family, my children…I my second thought was, “I need more time.” Since embarking on minimalism, slowly at first but we are building momentum, I find that I DO have more time. I don’t spend hours at the mall acquiring things that I’ll have to spend more time maintaining, storing, dusting, decluttering, etc.

    Time is our only real commodity. I want to spend mine wisely.


  • Thanks to everyone for your kind, thoughtful comments. I don’t mean to imply that I deserved MS or exactly what the cause is (no one knows), but I do know that I wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle. My priorities were a mess and I didn’t have the time or space to figure things out.

    No matter the disease or conflict in our lives, we all deserve hope and that is what living more simply has given me.


  • So lovely to hear your personal story Courtney. Your words about minimalism changing you from the inside out really resonate.
    So many of us focus on external matters to the detriment of our inner lives: our health, mental well being and spirituality xo

  • […] Real Life Minimalists: Courtney Carver. The story behind her […]

  • Courtney, as usual, you rock. Thanks for the reminder that I need to become more conscious of my diet and my busyness. (I think I have the stuff thing down.)

  • YOU ROCK ! That’s Just Beautiful . . .Thank you

  • Lobo

    It’s strange how it takes illness or disease to wake us up from a “normal” life. My issues with moderate acne have led me on quite a journey – far from the beaten path of “normal”.

    I highly suggest that you look into the Paleolithic diet. Much of what mainstream medicine says about food is incredibly biased, if not downright fictional. For me, paleo is the only diet plan that makes sense at its core, and it is one of few that goes beyond just what you eat. And you can be sure that what is and isn’t Paleo will not change with the next big study to promote the interests of big pharmaceutical companies.

    I hate to sound confrontational about the diet issue, but I would hope it is taken as a sign of caring for your well-being as opposed to ‘dietary elitism’. I just worry that eating “healthy” whole grains, soy products, etc. will do more harm than good, especially considering that MS is an immune disease. Read up on leaky gut if you have time.

    • Jenifer

      there’s also a ted talk by a doctor who reversed her severe MS using paleo nutrition. Very interesting. I can’t find it in my quick google search, btu it is interesting.

      I was vegetarian for 11 years. my diet was simple, but when we moved to a damp environment, I developed all kinds of minor health issues. I went paleo and everything cleared up in two weeks, and I haven’t looked back. I currently eat two paleo meals a day on an intermittent fasting protocol (which is 18 hrs without food, 6 with food). It’s really simplified our lives. DS still eats whenever he wants, but DH and I have saved a lot of time and seen many health benefits from moving to two meals a day (based on raw or steamed veg and a bit of meat or eggs — and bone broth and fermented veggies). And for us, it costs about the same, really.

  • Nan

    Thank You. I have read your blog! Good for you to connect the dots. Most of us get a wake up call, and even though it may be subtle at first, our bodies keep talking to us. The key is to listen, like you, and act. Sometimes what seems like our worst nightmare can turn into a wonderful gift, if we let it. I have been blessed that someone told me about and “There are No Incurable Diseases” I am happy to still be alive and loving life and health. I hope that you continue to enjoy your lovely life. Thank you for a fine example. Thank You for a great post.

  • Rebecca

    Still slowly de cluttering my storage area/my moms basement and grabbed a box today and found a lot of paper clutter things that I no longer need or want anymore also do not miss the photos of my ex those have been happily shredded and torn up by me. Kind of therapeutic even though I have not seen him in over 10 years it is still painful which is a surprise to me. I am not missing any of these things that I have discovered that I still owned and had and am rather ashamed that I have saved so much. Ah well not perfect. Thanks for the posts and the ideas on furniture that is not necessary. We do not have a table so no chance of eating instead we have a bar/counter area that we eat our meals at with a couple of bar stools.

    I just have one question where do you store your undies and socks if you suggest people not have a dresser? Just curious or maybe I missed it in the first post.

  • Courtney – I can appreciate where you’re coming from, as I’ve evolved in a similar way, with being diagnosed with both Spondylitiis and Rheumatoid several years ago(chronic, Autoimmune Arthritis conditions). The simplification of our lives (and the added layer of husband being active duty military and frequently deployed), has been a critical part of the management of my health. In all components of my course of treatment (dietary changes, doctor’s treatments, homeopathic methods).. I can say that living more simply has stood out as the most helpful and practical to just get through each and every day. Thank for sharing your story on here!

  • […] long and I’ve changed my ways.” She simplified her life so that she could truly live it. Here’s a great summary of her story on Real Life […]

  • Tina

    There is so much good in simplifying. less worry and less waste. By living smaller our utility bills are smaller. Less to worry about. I have some stuffed animals I need to pass on this week. Haven’t thought about them in years.

  • Tina

    I think I read somewhere that most US adults don’t eat anywhere near the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Considering refined sugar was virtually unknown til the 1700’s there may be a point to these simpler ways of eating. Meanwhile, we are in general living far longer than Paleolithic man.

  • Tina

    Still finding more to give away. Checking in my cabinets to be sure I’m not overlooking something someone else could use. Filling a bag for the local food pantry at the same time. At holidays we always think of other people and worry they don’t have enough to eat.

  • Just donated razors, toothbrushes and toothpaste to the local homeless. There is so much to go around. I also have worn blankets to take to the vet. I have so much to give away and more to recycle. I teach classes on frugal living at our local library. We are lucky we can get rice and beans, oatmeal and other staples so cheaply here. There are parts of the world where people don’t even have clean water.

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