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Minimalism… and International Adoption

Simple Living Stories - Photo Taken for CARE Capital Campaign 9-11This is a guest post by T.E.Sowers.  Thanks so much for sharing how minimalism has been changing your life!

Minimalism and International Adoption?

I completely understand your confusion!  After all, how in the world are these two things connected?  If you are reading this blog you know that simple living can make many of the challenges we face in life easier to manage. Let me explain how it made the complex, seemingly never-ending process of international adoption possible for my wife and I.

Actually my journey towards simplifying began while I was in high school.  My teen-aged readings led to the works of Henry David Thoreau, who remains to this day one of my favorite authors.

As young adults in our early twenties, my wife and I always seemed to be on the same page (for the most part!) regarding our values and beliefs. Books such as Living the Simple Life and Inner Simplicity by Elaine St. James provided inspiration. This led us to work towards a simpler, more satisfying life.

We tried to adhere to this philosophy within many areas including our careers, money management, and housing.   By no means were we, nor are we currently, living in the proverbial “log cabin in the woods.”  Quite often, the simplicity and minimalist movements get stereotyped with this paradigm.  We are normal consumers like most of you. We just try and scrutinize the majority of our purchases and look for quality over quantity in all aspects of our lives.

Fast-forward about 15 years. Since we were unable to have children naturally, my wife and I began considering adoption.  We both really wanted a girl and after some research discovered the plight of China’s One-Child Policy – about 98% of Chinese adoptees are female. Our decision was made.

To make a long and wonderful story short, the process began in 2005 and we returned home on Thanksgiving Day, 2007 with a beautiful one year-old girl named Jiang Ai Rong.  “Rong-Rong” as the nursery workers at the orphanage affectionately called her, was re-named Cosette Alexandra Ai Sowers.

It’s the storybook ending which turned out exactly as we had hoped.  However, the process to get there was far from easy.  Simplifying our lives made the difference. It allowed us to:

  • Make room for our little one. Years of planning and passing-on what we didn’t need or want made it a snap to convert an unused bedroom into a nursery. A crib was borrowed from family and the other furniture in the room was from my bedroom as a kid.
  • Pay for this wild and crazy adventure.  The habits of taking a conservative approach to spending and saving had been, by this time, well ingrained   Through my wife’s meticulous efforts at managing our household income, we were able to finance this entire endeavor with a small home equity loan.
  • Complete and process a sea of paperwork. We all complain about the paperwork involved when buying a car, house or other large purchase.  That’s nothing! We were not prepared for the incredible amount of forms needing completed, documents researched and gathered and everything else ranging from having a home study with a social worker done, to traveling to the nearest Office of Homeland Security (twice!) for fingerprinting and extensive background checks.  To help manage this sudden influx of paperwork, our smallest bedroom was quickly converted to a home office to provide us with a centralized area for organizing and processing the needed paperwork. Amazingly this small space made all the difference, with it quickly becoming our adoption “command center.”  As with the baby’s room, we were again able to furnish this room cheaply and easily, with items we had collected over the years.  An antique desk and dresser were put into service and provided writing space and organization for the mountains of paperwork.

Without question, simple living made our adoption process easier, less stressful and able to be completed without us going out of our minds!   I cannot imagine undertaking such a monumental task without having prepared beforehand.  Taking a laid-back, simplified approach to our lives has proved helpful in so many ways. It never fails to surprise me in how many ways it continues to help.  And yes…we would absolutely do it all over again!  Our beautiful six year-old is all the proof we need.

Bio: Tony, his wife Kristina and daughter Cosette live in northcentral Pennsylvania. He is a licensed social worker in nearby New York state. Cosette is now 6 years old and doing wonderfully.

Thanks so much for sharing Tony!


  1. Your story is beautiful and very encouraging! We’re about to begin the process of international adoption. We plan to begin the paper work in March. How timely for me to read this today. Thank you so much for your uplifting words.

    • Thanks for the kind words! I wish you the best luck. Please do not get discouraged after the paperwork has been filed and the wait begins…no matter how long it is worth the wait!!

  2. Kimberly Kimberly

    Beautiful story……thanks for sharing!!!

  3. What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing. I have a 6 year old also, and am currently in the process of simplifying my life.

  4. Great post! Your story is wonderful. Our family is hoping to adopt a child in the near future and have been simplifying our lives and finances in order to do this. It is an incredibly expensive and complicated process! Thank you for sharing your story. Good luck to your family!

  5. Stacey B. Stacey B.

    Adoption is a very rewarding yet very difficult and trying process. I think it’s fantastic that you have found a way of life that has aided you and your family to make this life changing event a bit more manageable! In researching adoption myself I have found that the vast amount of information provided on the internet and in books has been extremely helpful in finding ideas and assistance. I have to recommend a fantastic memoir I just read entitled, “Split at the Root” ( by Catana Tully. The author writes from her own personal experience about being adopted into a family who’s race and culture differed from her own. The book takes place during World War 2 and follows Catana’s journey from birth to adulthood and the constant battle she has trying to push away her past and embrace her present. While the story is highly personal, it resonates universally with men and women of all age groups. It is particularly important for adoptive parents, especially those who have adopted internationally! It is a great story, well written and of general interest. Issues regarding birth mothers and adoptive mothers are central to the trajectory of the story. Adoption is a journey and it’s nice to find books like this along the way that help!

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