Ellen Atkins, Founder & CEO of The Suburban Monk

The inspiration for The Suburban Monk came from a time of major transition in my life, where the past was gone . . . but I wasn’t quite sure what the future held. That void can be so uncomfortable.

I led a “normal” suburban life. I married a great guy who is still my husband 28 years later, have 3 kids and the adorable family dog, Murphy.

The Corporate world was where I lived for 30 years. Yes, I had the perfect job. Great money. Well respected. The day flew by.

So, what made me turn my perfect life upside down?

For a long time, there was a constant internal nagging. Logically, it felt like this all should be enough. It wasn’t. Conversations played in my head such as, “You can do this job with your eyes closed, Ellen. Don’t you want to see what else is out there?”

When I thought about quitting, What would I do? always popped up and with no answer at hand, I’d get pulled back into the busyness of life.

Those voices became shouts and the day after we took our son to college on August 30, 2007, I finally quit. I still had no explanation for my family and friends.

Well, none that was logical.

I knew it would be hard but I never realized how hard. I felt like Alice from Alice in Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole. I tried being the “perfect mom” (oh, that went well. Ha.) I tried yoga, volunteering, organic juicing. You name it, I did it.

Eventually, I couldn’t run from myself — or my unhappiness — any longer.

There were no more activities that could keep the waves of despair at bay. I couldn’t figure it out with my head. What I really needed was to surrender and be still with my sadness.

It was in this stillness that something magical began to happen. Syd was born.

I came across a quote by Howard Washington Thurman at the time:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”

What struck me was that I was in my early 50’s, but didn’t know what made me come alive. I knew how to multitask and be responsible. I was a Virgo and a CPA, after all.

But . . . what about fun?

I made it my mission to find out what made me happy.

I started to notice anything that gave me pleasure: a word, a quote, a picture or a color. Anything. I ordered a few Monk statues (the jolly kind with big bellies) and they always made me laugh. I surrounded my life with anything that made me laugh.

The Monks not only became my companions but my daily inspiration. I would dress them up. A dishtowel became a shawl, a mop became a hat. It was my new hobby that quickly became a passion.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”

Howard Washington Thurman

I started taking Monk pictures and sent them to friends. The response was amazing. Everyone loved them! We all started to realized how little we laughed.

The UPS guy loved seeing the statue on the front porch with various outfits and messages duct-taped to it. The one in my kitchen would have a funny or inspirational message for the day. They were always bringing me back to joy and laughter. I put a monk in the garage that I would see every time I pulled up. It would immediately snap me out of my seriousness as if to say, “Laugh now, Ellen. Feel better — and then we can deal with life’s issues.”

The monks were helping me feel inspired, creative — and actually happy.

Little did I know this would be the start of a business.


The Suburban Monk is Born


I grew tired of duct-taping messages to my monks. I wished they had outfits and a place to hold various items. So, I decided to create one — and designed a unique suburban monk statue that has fitted clothes, a welcoming, open hand for car keys or inspirational sayings, and other feel good accessories.

From our 13 inch statue came the little two thumbs-up Syd, who spreads love and joy everywhere he goes. Just try to not smile when you look at one!

It was then that I knew my monks were going to help others just like me. We were creating something bigger than I realized. A movement of sorts. The Suburban Monk is here to help you create a life that makes sense, feels good and is so much fun to live. Join in the fun!

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Live. Laugh. Monk!