Real Life Minimalists: Sacha

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.

Today, Sacha reminds us that even if you don’t consider yourself a “minimalist,” paring down and simplifying your life can bring much peace and happiness.

Sacha writes:

I have never been and will never be a minimalist. As a child I firmly believed that 10 ten cent coins were more than a guilder, I can always find a new use for anything and as a child of a former antiques dealer, my heart flutters when looking at a beautifully made article from the 1920s. There is something about Art Deco that tickles my greedy…. o well…. you get the picture, I’m sure!

I am also not a pack rat or hoarder, thank God… I just had a lot of things. When I decided to move house and relocate to a different part of the Netherlands, I walked through my house every day and asked myself “are you going to take this with you to your new house?” I was surprised to hear myself say “no” to many things. I sold most of my furniture, antiques and collectables over the course of  a year. During that year I chose not to buy much apart from food and saved the money and a big part of my regular income so I could use it to lower my future mortgage.

I also looked at my clothes… many went to goodwill or were used as rags. All shoes which were uncomfortable also went in the goodwill bag. I (and most certainly the boxes) felt lighter by doing that. Still, I do own some items that I hardly wear, but I smile when I see them, so they are staying (for now). Maybe they won’t survive a future decluttering round, but who knows.

I didn’t know this, but this was just the start… and the easy part. I also started to declutter in another area and stumbled across something well hidden. No stroke of genius, but completely by accident.

Maybe you guys know a tv show called Doomsday Preppers… my personal doomsday would be the day I might lose my job (which hasn’t actually happened) and I was afraid I might not have enough money to buy food. Well… suffice to say: the kitchen cupboard doors could be closed… but only just.

When I decided to move, I also decided to put an end to this whole doomsday idea and stop being afraid of what might happen…. and bought a house with space for a vegetable garden. That way I could be a producer instead of a consumer and as far as I know vegetables have no idea how much money you have in your bank account, they just need enough sun and rain. They grow and I eat them… it is simple, really.

My kitchen cupboards started to empty and I found out I have everything I need for healthy meals without running to the shops every other day. With my vegetable garden I manage to have a steady supply of fresh greens during summer and autumn, in autumn I also have loads of fruits and my two beautiful little ladies give me a steady supply of eggs during most of the year… I have rediscovered preserving food (as a child of the 1970s I grew up with that) and I make candied tomatoes, jams, chutneys, pickles and sauces to give away as presents and to eat with my home made breads. Unfortunately, last year my grape vines had an enormous yield of about 20 grapes, so home made wine is out of the question for now.

To my own surprise I am discovering that I need less and less stuff and food and that I feel good about that. I am enjoying the Good Life (look it up on YouTube) and getting re-acquainted with my happy hippy inner child again when picking my salad greens and I can share this good life and good food with friends and neighbours. I am taking my life in my own hands again because I am stepping back from the rat race and buying stuff to silence the nagging feeling of “what-if”. Who would have guessed?

{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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Marianne

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 a wonderful contribution from Marianne, who tells us how decluttering her stuff has brought her more happiness than owning it.

Marianne writes:

Marianne and her mom

Marianne and her mom

I grew up in a house that was perpetually cluttered. Not hoarders but just a lot of stuff. I would visit friends houses and dream of having all that space in a neat and tidy home. I have two parents that would rarely part with things (and had a lifetime full of stuff) – my dad restored antiques and repaired furniture – many times people would give him castoffs, etc, that he would always accept. My mom loves to shop and has packed many closets full of clothing in the house.

As a kid, I always wanted something on vacation or at the stores…we were middle class to lower middle class – always had enough but didn’t get the brand name clothes that many of my classmates had. When I would convince my mom or dad to buy me a souvenir or other thing from a store, I would be so happy for a while…and then it would fade.

I honestly felt, when I was younger, that money could buy happiness. I would dream of maybe some day being able to just buy whatever I wanted with my earnings. I became a veterinarian, my life long dream and made a living wage. I actively paid down student loans but also started to buy some “big girl” furniture. After years of old furniture that never seemed to leave the house, I bought a sofa and chair. I bought my parents a sofa as a sort of thank you for supporting me and loving me throughout my journey (my pets also destroyed some of their items:).

I moved back in with my parents after vet school to save money. The beautiful sunshine basement was like the cemetery for old furniture and other discarded household things. I began slowly unearthing space for myself by getting permission to donate some of these items. My brother and I used to call our house “the magic shop”, because we seemed to have absolutely EVERYTHING you could think of. It was honestly overwhelming to think of the amount of STUFF that resided (and still resides) in that house. Of course I also had plenty of my own treasures….stuff that I had purchased here and there and in my travels. I had an entire bookcase of printed vet school notes that I lugged home in binders.

I had been fairly active decluttering over the last five years or so but the big kicker came when I was on a trip to Portland, Oregon last year. My friend, Molly and I were in Portland to run a marathon and have a short vacation. We both love thrift store shopping and found a great one in Portland where we each bought a lot of clothing items. We also went to Powell’s books and went a little crazy buying books and other fun items. Then there was a farmers market that sold interesting bags, hats, etc. a leather owl purse made it home with me that day – I just had to have it! All this retail therapy (for some reason) left my head spinning! I got home and felt the need to make a change. I realized that I had many fun and interesting purses that I almost never used – I pretty much always used the same one.

Initially, I had a hard time letting go of these types of things because I had spent good money on them and they were very usable. I also had gifts that people had given me that sat unused with the tags on. I had an entire table of such items that sat almost untouched in my family room for almost a year while I fretted about what to do with them…and then I pretty much just pulled the ripcord. Countless trips to the local catholic thrift store were made. Some items that were unused, I gave as gifts to others or for auction items for charitable events. Some particularly hard items to rid myself of I sold on eBay, which was probably more hassle than it was worth but at least they’re gone. My excitement for decluttering has encouraged my mom (with my gentle urging) and dad to let go of some things. It has honestly become like an addiction.

I was deployed with the Veterinary Corps of the US Army to Kuwait this past July and I was excited to see how little I could travel with. We were allowed four duffles and I probably had 2.5. It was a little bit of a struggle to not buy tons of cool souvenirs from the Middle East. I bought a few things but not much…mainly because I know how painful it is to declutter it once I’ve bought these items. I travelled to another country from Kuwait for 11 days with just a carryon backpack and a small laptop bag. I even had less than the men on the trip!

The thing that I am struggling with now is that it is not about the stuff. Achieving minimalism for me needs to be about clearing the stuff so that I can make room for what’s important and I’m just not sure what that is. I love God, my family and friends, my pets, traveling. This deployment has been a good change for me to shake up my routine and try to prioritize things in my life. I’m 39 and am still in my parents basement (by choice) but maybe it’s time to try something different. I love to read blogs like this about decluttering and minimalism but it’s very easy to lose the forest for the trees. I need to start thinking less about physical decluttering and more about how that helps me be the best version of myself for this world.

{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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Maureen

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.

Today, Maureen shares with us a very interesting story of how she came to live in her van. I’ve always been fascinated with such alternative (and minimalist) living arrangements; if you are too, I encourage you to visit her blog to read more.

Maureen writes:

My name is Maureen and over three years ago I decided to sell almost everything I owned and sleep in my van.

My youngest child had left home for college and I decided that since it was just me now to take care of, I didn’t have to work 2-3 jobs anymore to keep a very expensive roof over our heads. I also felt I didn’t need to maintain (dust, vacuum, wipe, scrub etc.) a two bedroom condo any longer. It helped that for many years I had admired people I’d read about who lived in vans, caves, shacks, etc.

Free-sleeping in a van isn’t the path for everyone, but I had long ago grown tired of dusting knickknacks and organizing clutter (as so many people have mentioned) by moving it from place to place to place in my condo over the years, and I felt van living was a way out for me.

Once I made the decision to sleep in my van, I got a 5 X 5 storage unit to keep most of my earthly possessions in. Naturally I keep a few things in my van too. I haven’t missed any of the things I threw away.

It has been an interesting journey. As an entrepreneur-in-training, not having rent or utilities to pay and not having a medium sized home to clean all the time has allowed me to pursue different business ideas without being exhausted all the time and without having to worry about well..ending up homeless!

It has been hard at times. Sometimes I earn barely enough to keep my van running, and I have had to take a good hard look at myself and decide whether I should work harder and more so I can keep my van, or if I should let it go and move back into a home. I also could go live with my folks again if I got really desperate, but I would only consider that as a last resort.

I have also learned that there’s no free lunch. I thought I would be a little lazy, sleeping in by van but even a van needs upkeep and cleaning once in a while. I still need to obtain food and clothing. As long as I’m alive I’m probably going to have to make some kind of effort.

I have also learned that unless I go live somewhere alone in the woods (which I can’t do because I need to work to get money) I still have to learn to deal with people, even the difficult ones. This means de-cluttering my life of habits and judgments that have held me back from good relationships.

One of the most important things that is happening is that I am learning to de-clutter my mind from what everyone thinks of me. Whether it is free-sleeping in my van, my clothes, my age or whatever, people are always going to have their opinions, but it is up to me how I feel about myself.

Believe it or not, I am still in the process of de-cluttering my possessions, because even though I have much less in terms of material goods than many people, I find the “stuff” I still own a burden, mentally and financially. I pay around $70 a month for my storage unit, for heaven’s sake!

The joy is in the journey and I’m still a-traveling. If anyone wants to learn about the simplicity of van living, please check out my blog where I chronicle my three and a half years of growth: www.livinginmyvan.com.

{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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Jared Brock

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 Jared Brock, the author of A Year of Living Prayerfully (a humorous travel memoir about prayer). He tells us how minimalism has helped him and his wife tackle projects like founding charities, making documentaries, and traveling the world.

Jared writes:

Jared

Jared

A few years ago, my wife and I asked some friends to help us move. We packed our bags, rented a moving van, and assumed we’d be done by lunch.

It lasted all day.

It was exhausting and embarrassing – we had so much stuff. As I watched my friends sweat and struggle to haul out my belongings, I realized that my possessions had come to possess me. Right then and there, I vowed to myself that I would never put my friends through anything like that again.

Our minimalist adventure started slowly. We started by purging many of the wedding gifts that we had received. Then we took the 100 Things Challenge and pared down our number of possessions to a total of 88 combined items for a 5-month-long backpacking trip. It was one of the most freeing seasons of our lives. We encountered a lot of poverty as we traveled through seven Central American countries, but we also started to cultivate gratefulness and contentment in our lives, and a deep desire to do good in the world. It changed us forever.

Today we live in a shiny 1975 Airstream trailer. We don’t own a microwave or TV. I don’t drink coffee or bottled water, I mostly buy used clothes, and I’m a vegetarian. We’re carbon neutral, and we don’t even own cell phones. It’s been so freeing – it takes 5 minutes to clean the house, and 10 minutes to pack for a trip. We have way more time for friends – we spend most of our summer nights around the campfire. We’ll take relationships and experiences over possessions, any day.

My wife runs a charity to fight human trafficking, and living simply gave us the ability to make a 10-country documentary about this immense injustice. I recently completed a 37,000-mile prayer pilgrimage around the world – I met the Pope, danced with rabbis, visited North Korea and Westboro Baptist Church, walked on coals, revived my prayer life, and then wrote a book about the wild ride. Without intentional simplicity, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy these incredible adventures. Minimalism is the tool that has helped us free up a margin of time and money in order to work on meaningful projects that we feel called to do.

It’s worth every penny, and every second.

{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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Dominique

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.

Today, I’m pleased to feature Dominique, who shares with us this touching tribute to her minimalist father. Please visit her blog to read more about her journey to simplicity.

Dominique writes:

Dominique

Dominique

It just occurred to me today while I was reading minimalism testimonials online on the Miss Minimalist website that my dad was a minimalist. My mom isn’t, but my dad was.

My dad passed away on October 11, 2014. The day after his 64th birthday. It’s still very recent and very difficult to accept that I can’t see him, hug him or hear him anymore. My father’s voice was so sweet to me. He didn’t give himself enough credit for the incredible man that he was. But maybe his modesty added to his greatness.

Anyway, my dad didn’t have or want many things. Growing up, I saw my dad use the exact same orange hair brush every day, and the same green plastic glass whenever he wanted to drink pop. My sister and I joked that those two items would be our inheritance. This was years before he got sick with COPD.

He was hard to shop for when it came to birthday and Christmas presents. He didn’t have many regular hobbies. Life for him was all about family. We’d ask him what he wanted. He would always say “Nothing. I just want to be with you guys”. So we would often just get him clothes because he never bought any for himself.

One of my favourite memories of a “present” that I gave my dad one year for his birthday was when I invited my parents, my sister and her family, and my dad’s last living sister to supper in my new house. My aunt Hélène’s husband, uncle Pierinot, had recently passed away. I had made my first turkey dinner and it turned out great. My dad was just so thrilled that we were together. He kept saying over and over again how pleased he was and how this was his best birthday. I was so proud to make him so happy. I really loved making him happy!

I’m so thankful that my dad was a minimalist. I hear of so many families who are torn apart over inheritances. By being a minimalist, my dad spared us any possible fights (although, he and my mom raised us right and I can’t really imagine that my sister and I would have fought over anything). He also spared us the guilt of having to give away things he left behind. I don’t think it was intentional. He just didn’t care about things. Well, he didn’t care about acquiring things. What he had he took care of, for a very long time. Whenever he got rid of something, it was because it was well worn out.

So what did we get? What was his legacy? In no particular order: we got a great example of devotion to family, of honesty, of work ethic, of love, of tremendous strength, of sincerity, of quiet wisdom, of forgiveness, of responsibility, of humility, of humour, of hope, of respect, of simplicity.

My sister got the green plastic glass, and I got dad’s orange brush.

{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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Judith

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, I’m happy to introduce you to Judith, who writes about the wonderful sense of lightness and freedom that decluttering can bring!

Judith writes:

Judith

Judith

I have always considered myself as very low maintenance, I never liked having A LOT of STUFF, and so even as a kid I regularly would purge my belongings. 2014 was an over the top busy and stressful year for my husband and I. My husband injured himself at work in May and as a carpenter he was not able to work for 3 months. As a business owner he had no income coming in for those months. And in August we ran into a great deal to buy a small house that needed some work. The perfect house and price for us. So we bought it and started the reno. We both work full time and are renovating the house as we can while living in it. It can get interesting. But I started to feel crowded and pressured. Then I ran into some information on minimalism, and it rang so true to me that our happiness does not come from what we have. I wanted our lives to be more than just about work and stuff. So I decided to start a major purge. I am not a good sales person so I donated a lot (over 12 bags of good stuff) and threw out just about as much. For someone who thought we didn’t own much, I was shocked. And I keep being shocked as I usually donate about 1 bag a week still at the moment. I have stopped spending (even though I always thought I was good at not buying stuff) and have adopted the one in one out moto. My husband has been very supportive and has got rid of a lot of his stuff as well. I am amazed at how much stuff gets accumulated. Stuff we don’t even miss when it’s gone.

The feeling of freedom in getting rid of my stuff is indescribable. When I first started purging I was feeling guilty for getting rid of stuff friends and family had bought for us, but as time goes, it all gets very easy. Getting rid of stuff is as addictive as wanting to buy stuff I believe. It feels like my head is much clearer, and cleaning is a breeze, even amongst these renos. As we continue on our renovations, I am planning on keeping the décor very minimal.

We are still a work in progress, getting rid of the superfluous stuff is just the beginning, and my goal is to have a stress-free life, which I can enjoy right now, every day. I want to be able to spend some time every day with the man I love and the people I care about. And I don’t mean just the few minutes after we’re all done work for the day before we go to bed. We are both hard workers and do not mind working, but I do not want our whole life to be only about work. When I get older I want to look back on my life and say that I really enjoyed it and never missed a moment to be happy and live in the moment.

{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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Rowena

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.

Today, Rowena from London explains how several of her personal philosophies led her to minimalism, and how decluttering is already making a difference in her life.

Rowena writes:

I teach in London where I live with my musician husband, Dan, and two young sons. My journey towards minimalism has had several other names along the way! First I called it feminism, when, in my mid-20s, I rejected many of the useless and costly accoutrements of the female consumer. In my late 20s our children arrived so I called it natural parenting and eliminated unnecessary items by breastfeeding, co-sleeping and using baby-led weaning (although not nearly as much as I should have done. Ah well, hindsight is 20:20). Our adored children naturally limited our finances, so then I called it economical living and began to reduce our grocery bill by using cleaning tips from Kim and Aggie’s How Clean is Your House? Their natural cleaners led inevitably to an interest in the environmental impact of our household, and so in my early 30s I called it ethical consumerism and eco-living and invested in crystal deodorant, eco-balls, Ecloths and other environmentally-friendly items. Last year I got into vintage fashion and adopted the ‘buy-less-love-more’ approach.

However, I was still living in a tiny flat with Dan (and his drums), two young children (and their paraphernalia) and my own accumulated junk (and almost no storage). I have an exhausting job and no inclination to spend my evenings and weekends cleaning and tidying, so the flat was usually in a terrible state. Then, a few months ago, I stumbled across minimalist mother singlemomenough.wordpress.com and had something of an epiphany. Of course! If you have no stuff you never have to tidy any up!

All my various philosophies seem to have come together in minimalism. I suppose what they all have in common is a core concept of sorting what really matters from what society says should matter. I’m still a passionate feminist, attachment parent and environmentalist, but the Big Clear Out has begun! I have found so much peace and energy since this chapter of our lives began.

Some items are easier to reduce than others: my wardrobe is small and I’ve never spent much on clothing (see above!); CDs have been replaced with an MP3 player and rarely-used items are gradually leaving. However, we both have lots of musical instruments, with which we will never part, and I recently heard that there is a correlation between the size of a parents’ book collection and the standard of university that the child later attends, so I am firmly against reducing our 1000+ book collection by much. We also let the kids spend their pocket money however they choose (so that they learn early on what it is like to waste money!) and it does mean that various toys do enter our home, but they too have to learn how to manage their possessions.

Since beginning the purge of stuff from our home, I have at times been daunted by just how much we have, even in this small space. I have a couple of theories as to why we own so much. Our parents were born in the 1940s and 1950s, which in the UK meant rationing and ‘waste-not-want-not’.  The flow of items into the home was much slower than now, and so they were raised to hang on to things, should they be needed again. Dan and I grew up in the 1980s, when consumerism ruled. Possessions were how you measured and displayed your success.

Thus the pair of us arrived at married life with the twin notions of hoarding against future poverty, and valuing the accumulation of items. Obviously, I can’t blame all this on our ages and those of our parents, otherwise everyone in their mid-30s would be living in chaos, but I do look around some of my friends’ homes (particularly those with young children, admittedly!) and do see that, yes, actually, lots of people our age do live with huge amounts of clutter. (Each to their own, by the way. I’m not criticising how other people live, just attempting to explain it). I must also point out that my mother is a superb de-clutterer!

I’m excited about where this journey will take us, and I love the feeling of airiness and order that has been created in our little flat even at this early stage. There remains a lot to be done, but the process is as satisfying as the result. Minimalism is the latest philosophy to enter my life, and I’ve written about the others – chiefly feminism and parenting – for some other sites. Please find links to them here: https://www.facebook.com/rowenapelham.

{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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Morten

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, Morten from Denmark tells us how downsizing has helped him and his wife find more time and freedom to pursue their passions.

Morten writes:

Morten and Maria

Morten and Maria

My name is Morten Storgaard, and with my wife I have been downsizing since 2011. We had a printing company with a handful of employees, and times got tough during the crisis, so I guess we needed simplicity, and started downsizing.

I have really enjoyed the process, and last year I chose to try the so-called “100 thing challenge”. So I only had 100 belongings for 12 months. That was a stretch, but I am really glad I did so, because it challenged me to get rid of even more stuff, and in the process I realized, what I really appreciate and what I don’t need.

Today we are out of the company, and I work as a consultant instead. We don’t need a high income, so I work only 15-20 hours per week, which gives me time to play music (my passion), and work on my two websites www.GoDownsize.com and www.MurphyBedHQ.com, where I try to inspire people to downsize and find smart interior solutions for small spaces, and find a life with more time and freedom on their hands.

I have found that the tough part about downsizing and living with less stuff is not to actually live with less stuff. The hard part for me was to let go of my things in the first place. I think most people only use a small percentage of what they own, and they wouldn’t miss much of it, if they were able to let go of it. This is my story anyway.

During a longer trip to Africa we talked about how easy it was to live without all our things back home. We spent one month in Kenya and Nigeria, and we only bought our carry-ons. Since that experience we always travel light, and we have gotten rid of our big suitcases, as carry-ons are more than enough. It also means that we get quicker in and out of airports, and that’s great, when you are exhausted after a long flight.

I live with my wife in Aarhus, Denmark, and for the last two years now, we have rented out two rooms in our apartment. So we now live in the two living rooms, which is fine, because we installed a Murphy bed in one of the rooms. So whenever we want to sleep, we just pull down the bed from the wall, and voila – We have a bedroom.

We enjoy having a tenant. She has become a very good friend, and it’s also great to have someone to look after the place, whenever we go traveling. The extra income from renting out those two rooms we spend on traveling.

So we have been able to travel a lot more the last two years, and soon we are leaving for Thailand. We are so excited about this, and we look forward to experience Asia!

{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.}

The Minimalist Guide to a Long Distance Move

Have I ever mentioned that I love to move? Crazy, I know—but ever since college I’ve barely been able to stay in one place for a year before I’m itching to pack up again. When I was tied to a certain location, I’d use architecture as an excuse—as in, let’s see what it’d be like to live in an old Victorian, or a high rise, or an industrial loft. Or I’d neighborhood-hop, so as to experience living in different parts of a city. But really, I just liked to move. :)

Many of you are familiar with the BIG moves of my recent past—over to London, and then back to the US a few years later. Well, I just did it again—this time from one coast of the US to the other. Having a 3-year-old made it a little more challenging…but you know what? It was still very doable, and dare I say, kind of fun. So I thought I’d share some survival techniques with anyone else considering such an endeavor.

1. Spend at least a moment considering the extreme: selling or otherwise disbursing of all your stuff and starting over.

A long-distance move can be expensive; not just $$ expensive, but $$$$$ expensive. If you’re not particularly attached to your stuff, or it’s not all that nice or valuable to begin with, give some serious thought to leaving it all behind. For the price of transporting it, you may be able to replace it with stuff you like better. This strategy can also generate a tremendous amount of goodwill amongst your family, friends, and neighbors. We have a friend who still thanks us for the iPod speakers we gave him before our overseas move.

We really wanted to do this, and even went so far as to itemize replacement costs. And if we didn’t have a child, we would have made it happen. But the cost and hassle (and in some cases, impossibility) of replacing her favorite books, toys, and other possessions outweighed the benefits. And after uprooting the poor girl from the only life she’d ever known, we felt that maintaining some familiarity would help ease the transition. She seemed genuinely surprised and delighted when we unpacked the same stuff—“that’s OUR couch!!!”—into our new apartment.

2. DIY to whatever extent possible.

Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, but I feel that if I’ve accumulated stuff, it’s my responsibility to pack it up and schlep it around. (Call it my penance for possession, similar to why I use eBay.) I’m usually a proponent of rent-your-own-moving-truck—but outfitting one with a car seat for a 3000+ mile drive was not an option. Therefore, we opted for the next best alternative: a pack your own POD (portable on demand storage container), which we then had shipped across the country. Above all, avoid a full-service mover: not only is it pricey, but you won’t get the valuable, eye-opening, and yes, potentially uncomfortable experience of confronting and culling your own possessions.

3. Choose a transport vessel that is ridiculously small for your current amount of stuff.

This will vary according to your circumstances. If you’re single or a childfree couple, it might be your car or a small U-Haul trailer. If you’re a family moving from a 3+ bedroom house, think a POD the size of a walk-in closet. If you don’t panic and break out into a cold sweat at the sight of it, it’s probably too big. ;-) Think of it as packing for a trip, and your pod/trailer/moving truck is a big suitcase. Your goal is to pack light, and take only the essentials.

4. Halve your stuff.

If a die-hard minimalist family like us can find 50% of stuff to get rid of, so can you. It’s easiest if you group everything into categories: if you have 100 books, take only 50; if you have 10 shirts, take 5; if you have 8 pairs of shoes, take 4. The cool part is that you’ll end up with only your very favorite stuff—and you’ll have a wonderful excuse to get rid of the rest (especially those gifts, heirlooms, and ill-conceived purchases that can be so hard to declutter under normal circumstances).

5. Halve it again.

Yes, really. You’re in the groove now, so you might as well keep going—who knows when such an opportunity will come along again (and if you’ve chosen a small enough moving container, you won’t have much choice). This round will get you down to the minimalist Holy Grail, the glorious 20-25% of things you actually use.

6. Pack it up.

You’ve decluttered, and decluttered, and decluttered some more—yet some items will still have slipped through the cracks. It’s in the midst of packing that you will wonder why you have spent a small fortune on bubble paper to wrap a $6 set of Ikea glasses, or spent half a day finding a box to accommodate an odd-sized and seldom-used piece of hobby equipment. These are the enlightening moments that long-distance moves are made of—and another compelling reason to DIY.

7. Reconsider option #1.

Do you really want to drag all this stuff across the country?

8. Run out of time and/or packing materials.

My husband and I tend to be spontaneous, and only gave ourselves 3 weeks to orchestrate our latest move. But it doesn’t matter—we could have had 3 months (or 3 years, for that matter), and everything would still have come down to the wire. That’s when all those decluttering decisions you couldn’t make will be made for you—because in those final moments, the preservation of a cheese grater pales in comparison to getting the padlock on the POD before the truck arrives to collect it.

9. Question your sanity.

Everyone else will, so you may as well join in the fun. Particularly so if you are decamping with no job prospects, family, or housing at your destination, and with no more compelling reason to move than “walkability” or “weather.” It’s a herculean effort, and the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow may not be so obvious to the casual observer (or even, at times, to you).

10. Do it anyway.

Sometimes you just have to follow your heart.

From the moment we landed here, I knew we were home. I have never been so enchanted with the place where I live. I’ve spent the last few weeks wandering the streets, starry-eyed and lovestruck, checking out the playground scene with Plumblossom, the food scene with my husband, and the housing scene with our realtor (yikes to the latter, and a good thing we saved some coin on the move!). Our apartment is temporary, and another short-distance move is in the future; but for the first time, I actually have the desire to put down some roots and stay awhile.

11. Enjoy a vacation from your stuff.

After endless deliberations, decisions, and debates over your stuff, you probably won’t want to see it again for awhile. Enjoy a blissful separation while you await your POD (or if you’re road-tripping, while it’s stashed in your moving truck). We flew to our destination and camped out in our empty apartment for a week, eating on a picnic blanket and sleeping on the floor; and I can honestly say that, after all that packing, I was so tired of our stuff they could have dropped our POD in the sea for all I was concerned.

12. Unpack and unwind.

Of course, the time will come when you have to deal with those boxes on the receiving end—but if you’ve followed the advice above, you’ll be unpacked in a matter of hours (instead of days, weeks, or even months!). The excess will have been culled, and you’ll actually need everything you’ve brought. You’ll feel light, liberated, and ready for a fresh start in your new location. The blood, sweat, and tears will all be worth it, and—as for that 75% you decluttered—I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t miss a thing.

Have you made a long-distance move (or do you fantasize about one)? Tell us your experiences in the Comments!

{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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Chelsea

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.

Today I’m pleased to feature Chelsea, who explains how her minimalist lifestyle is helping her achieve the financial freedom to pursue her dreams. Stop by her blog to read more.

Chelsea writes:

Chelsea

Chelsea

I grew up in a somewhat frugal household.

Frugal in the way that if it could possibly be useful, we didn’t throw it out.

A lot of things we did use (and therefore saved money on), but a lot of things we didn’t.

If old tennis shoes still fit and could be used for “dirty” activities like painting or working in mud, we kept them—even if that meant 3 pairs of old tennis shoes each. If we might ever wear an over-sized, ugly sweatshirt given to us by a relative for Christmas two years ago, it stayed in the back of our closet.

If we might still play with toys we’d outgrown or might want to pass them down to our children someday, they stayed.

I carried the same habits with me when I moved to college: it was astounding to me how much stuff I could fit into my half of a 10’ by 15’ dorm room… and how many books and T-shirts a person “needed.”

I never really realized how excessive my amounts of non-useful clothes were until I hung out in friends rooms and realized how fewer clothes they had than me, despite the fact that they dressed way better. (Key takeaway: quantity does not equal quality)

After college, I moved back home for a couple of months before setting off on a four-month international internship with just one suitcase.

At the time, I had no idea I would fall in love with the simplicity of life that was afforded to me by only having a limited number of things in my wardrobe and keeping my life small enough to move it from place to place on a whim.

It’s very financially freeing too: if I don’t absolutely need something, I don’t buy it. Plain and simple. I could say it’s because I’ve become so budget conscious and I’m super strict on my spending because I keep my end financial goals in mind, but it’s really because I don’t want the hassle of dealing with excess stuff when the time comes to move to a new place.

Money is used for housing, food, travel, health insurance, and that’s pretty much it. There’s the occasional gift to buy, but not spending money on new clothes just for the sake of having a fresher version of the same shirt and not buying things when I already have 1-2 things to fill that purpose has really helped me cut down my spending to the point that I’m able to save up and achieve huge life goals.

Not only have I started putting money away for retirement, but I’ve got an emergency fund and I’ve bought plane tickets to travel the world and see things most people only dream of. (Still traveling, too.)

I’ve got a long way to go… especially when it comes to getting all the stuff out of my childhood and teenage bedroom and learning how to deal with gifts people insist on giving, but overall I’m incredibly happy with the direction my life is taking now that there’s less clutter in it.

{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.}