Real Life Minimalists: Pia

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, Pia tells us how some difficult situations inspired her minimalist journey—and how much happier, and more meaningful, her life has become. Be sure to visit her blog to read more!

Pia writes:

Pia

Pia

I wasn’t always very mindful of the way I lived my life. Every paycheque went to shopping for the latest trends or eating out too much. I’d spend countless hours surfing the internet, Facebook and watching YouTube videos. I didn’t spend as much time with my family as I should have. I was too focused on myself. I ate crappy food and I barely exercised. So like most people, I always wondered, what else was out there other than just chasing every temporary high? I think I lived everyday blindly, unaware of what I was really doing to myself.

It all started with a breakup in April 2012 (my 28th year) with someone I was living with for 3 years. Everything was pretty easy peasy up until that point. I had everything I wanted and needed (or thought I wanted and needed) and I thought I was happy.

The most significant change for me was towards the end of 2013. It was announced that the very secure and amazing workplace I was at was going to be shut down. We were like a family. It was a place of many people’s dream jobs. Heartbreak was all around, and it was a true test of my emotional strength as I helped everyone get through it all (I work in Human Resources slash part-time therapist haha), while also trying to take care of myself. My body went through a lot of physical pain as well as my spirit.

But I learned that bad things can be a blessing in disguise.

I had a month off before I started my new job, so I had a lot of time to reflect on things like the meaning of life, what I was here for and what really mattered. That kind of happens when you don’t have much to do. I started meeting and hanging out with people who lived life on their own terms. Lived it with meaning. Worked for themselves or were spiritually aware. A friend recommended I read the Celestine Prophecy and it changed my whole perspective on everything.

I discovered a bunch of Minimalist Blogs as well, which were in line with my new values. I realized that I had everything I wanted materially but I still wasn’t happy. I had a lot of clutter that was filling my time and space, that I never really touched or used. So I started slowly purging my belongings that had no use. Beginning with my gigantic wardrobe, then to my book collection, then to my kitchen, and so forth. I kept only the things I really needed or mattered to me the most and downsized into a studio apartment and have been blissful ever since.

I finally felt so liberated from something that was holding me back and I honestly feel like I’m now living at a level I never thought was possible. Like the material world doesn’t matter at all anymore. Forget consumerism. Who cares. On my deathbed what is going to matter? I don’t care about the superficial stuff anymore. It’s irrelevant.

The things that matter the most to me are the people in my life, giving back to others, truly loving and accepting myself, my health and my freedom. All the preoccupation of the material world and keeping up with the Joneses is pretty exhausting and isn’t going to matter in the long run. I’d rather work and find meaning in it and look at it as a way of contributing something to the world.

Funny enough, I just recently lost my most recent job, but it hardly phased me. I am so blissed out and happy with the way I am living my life. New opportunities have opened up, things that I was always scared to do like teaching and leading classes at local schools and helping students with their careers.

Needless to say, ever since I started living minimally and more meaningfully, the things and people that have entered my life have been exactly what I’ve been looking for my entire life. I am so much happier.

{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: Irene

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, we have a wonderful contribution from Irene. She shares the inspiration behind her minimalism, and the techniques she uses to achieve (and maintain) her simple lifestyle.

Irene writes:

Hi, I’m Irene from California and this is my minimalist story:

I was 17 years old when I discovered Elaine St. James’ book, The Simple Life, on display at Barnes and Noble. Elaine’s minimalist philosophy resonated with me and I reread her book several times.

My parents set great examples and taught me to value relationships and life experiences more than material things. We traveled often and we lived in 10 different homes before my 20th birthday. Through those journeys I began to consider which of my belongings were actually meaningful to me and worthy of shuffling from place to place. I wanted to be ready for the next adventure without unnecessary clutter weighing me down.

I flew off to college over 2,000 miles from home, bringing only a few boxes of possessions. There I realized that while I missed my family, friends, and the widespread availability of authentic Mexican restaurants, I didn’t miss any of the material things that I had left back home.

After graduating from college, I returned home and began to sell and donate many of my belongings that weren’t getting much use. I moved to a condo in a nearby city and filled it only with things that I used regularly. Less than a year later, I got married and my husband moved in with me. Fortunately, he shares my quest for simple living.

A few years after our wedding, we purchased our first home, which by most standards appears a bit empty. After five years in this house, we switched internet service providers; when the representative arrived to install our new system, he glanced around our spartan living room and asked if we had just moved in. I understood his confusion, since unlike most of our neighbors, we do not own a television and our decorations are sparse. By keeping only the pieces of furniture and decorator items that we use or truly enjoy, we save time cleaning and maintaining our home

After reading Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine, I went a year without spending any money on clothes, shoes, jewelry, or handbags. I made one exception for an alteration and fabric fee to tailor and add straps to a strapless bridesmaid dress.

Now that my year without buying clothes had ended, I generally practice a one-in-one-out strategy by making purchases only to replace a similar product. For example, if I buy a new pair of jeans, I will consign or donate my old pair. I’ve found Ebay and Twice to be excellent resources for selling used clothing.

My minimalist wardrobe saves me valuable time getting ready in the morning, and makes packing for vacations stress-free. My clothes are almost all in the same color scheme (solid black, denim, and khaki skirts, pants, and jackets, with colorful solid or print shirts) so everything coordinates. I also try to avoid buying clothes that require ironing, hand washing, or dry-cleaning.

During my year of reduced spending, I discovered that many of our needs, especially our clothing needs, are artificially created by marketers hawking their wares. I also learned that most of the things we rarely use can be easily borrowed instead of owned. Aside from my two Bibles and a few bible study books that I read frequently, I usually choose not to own items that I can borrow for free, such as books and DVDs. Our library even loans e-books, which I read on my cell phone during lunch breaks, and while riding airplanes or waiting in waiting rooms.

We are blessed that our parents have been very supportive of our simple lifestyle. For holidays, we usually share experiences, such as dinners at restaurants, a game of bocce ball, or a night at a magic show, instead of traditional gifts. Rather than giving each other birthday, Christmas, anniversary, and Valentine’s Day presents, my husband and I put a chunk of each paycheck into a vacation fund and take turns choosing our destinations. Together, we have visited Alaska, Canada, the Caribbean, Maui, Italy, France, Great Britain, and Portugal, and are planning many more vacations together in the future. We do not buy souvenirs on vacations, but we preserve the memories by discussing them and saving digital photos on our hard drives and flash drives.

I love that the minimalist lifestyle is so diverse, with varying goals, ages, and family sizes. My husband and I do not have children; other minimalists, such as Miss Minimalist, The Minimalist Mom and Becoming Minimalist practice minimalism with their children. The common thread connecting all minimalists is simply a mission to live within or below our means and eliminate the things we do not use or enjoy.

It has been inspiring to read the tips here and implement them at home. Thank you, Miss Minimalist, for providing this fantastic resource!

Irene's living room

Irene’s living room

{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.}

Stealth Decluttering

In the past, I used to engage in big, glorious acts of decluttering—the type in which an entire closet is emptied and the contents scattered across the room, each item awaiting its fate. Sometimes I’d put on music, pour a glass of wine, and dance around my castoffs.

Ah, those were the days… If I tried that now, a pint-sized scavenger would be dragging whatever she could grab to far-flung corners of our home. And I’m sure a good amount would be adopted as new (albeit unconventional) playthings.

So now I declutter in stealth mode.

Instead of extravagant purging sessions, I pare down our possessions quietly, piece by piece. I keep a donation box in the closet, and as I run across things that no longer pull their weight, I add them in—sometimes sneaking them across the house, if need be. To be honest, most of the castoffs belong to my daughter Plumblossom—outgrown clothing, toys, and baby accoutrements—hence the need for secrecy. If she catches sight of a familiar item (no matter how long it’s been forgotten), it may get stuck in our house for months to come.

Which got me thinking…stealth decluttering can be an effective technique if you’re facing resistance from full-grown members of your household.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I don’t advocate tossing your spouse’s high school yearbooks or prized bottle cap collection (tempting as it may be). Ditto for the knitting stash and dusty sports gear. Sentimental and hobby items are sticky wickets, and messing with them can get you into trouble.

But if your partner is the type that will become hopelessly attached to the duplicate stapler the moment he/she lays eyes on it, I think you’re justified in making some executive decisions.

The best candidates for stealth decluttering:

• Broken stuff. Nobody can fault you for tossing something that doesn’t work—especially if it hasn’t worked in a long time. If there’s no motivation or intention to fix it, let it go; obviously, it hasn’t been that essential to the workings of your household.

• Mundane stuff. These are the things that can be replaced easily and inexpensively in the remote chance that they’re missed. Many of these items have a tendency to multiply—pens, mugs, Tupperware, etc. Nobody is likely to notice if a few cups are missing, or if you pare down the stash of takeout chopsticks—except that it might be easier to close those drawers and cabinets.

• Children’s stuff. Give your kids the gift of space by eliminating the outgrown, the unloved, and the non-essential from their lives. Although I believe in encouraging children to give away their old stuff, you don’t need to run every castoff by them. It’s better for some things to disappear quietly. I stash questionable items in a “limbo” box for a few months, just in case they’re requested in the near future.

Your stuff. When it comes to your personal possessions, skip the PDD (public display of decluttering). Seeking validation from your partner may very well backfire (“You’re getting rid of that after paying so much for it?!”) and break your resolve.

My opinion: when done right, stealth decluttering isn’t an act of duplicity, it’s an act of kindness. We’re keeping our households clear, pleasant, and spacious without burdening our loved ones with the task (especially those who may genuinely struggle with such decisions).

(I should note that I don’t need to employ this with my husband, as he’s as minimalist as I am–and he’s more than welcome to do some stealth decluttering of his own. ;-) )

So let’s come clean in the Comments—do you ever declutter on the QT?

{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: Mads

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, Mads from Denmark shares with us his commitment to minimalism. He tells us how he and his family (including two small children) continually strive to live with less.

Mads writes:

Mads

I’m Mads from Denmark. I have been a minimalist for several years.

Must confess that I can’t remember how it all started. But as soon as I got started on minimalism I didn’t look back. Over the years I have consistently cut down on the number of things I have, although I’m still far from having only 100 things (it’s a difficult goal to reach when you have a family that includes two small children).

Because I need very little, I don’t need to make as much money as most people do. I can therefore get by with relatively few hours of consulting work, so I have time to focus on the things that matter: My family, my interests and my project Find Hold (a directory of sports clubs in Denmark).

Introducing minimalism in our family wasn’t difficult at all. Our children are small and my wife totally agreed with it from the beginning (but I can imagine how difficult it would be to introduce minimalism if your partner doesn’t agree with it).

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have conflicts about what we should keep and what we should get rid of. My wife loves to make food so she has a lot of kitchen stuff and our two small children are good at bringing home lots of small things. Me, I have a problem getting rid of papers and books (even though I borrow almost everything I read at the library instead of buying the books).

More than 3 years ago I wrote a blog post (in Danish) about how Project 333 inspired me to get rid of most of my clothes. And today, 3 years later, I’m happy to report I still have as little clothes as when I wrote the blog post.

We are not only minimalists at home. When we travel with our 2 children, we can be away for weeks with only one shared suitcase. And when I go to Barcelona next month, I’m quite sure I will have the smallest suitcase in the group (so small that I need to carry my computer keyboard outside the suitcase).

The only problem with minimalism is that a lot of people don’t get it. But luckily we don’t really care what other people think. :)

And no matter what, we are so happy that we have discovered minimalism and we are definitely not going back to the “normal” consumer lifestyle.

{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: Debbi

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, Debbi tells us about her quest to “let go.” I love the honesty and joy in her story, and think many of you will relate to her struggles with, and triumph over, clutter.

Debbi writes:

Debbi

Where does the time go? Here I am, 58 and will be retiring from my main place of employment this June. Thirty years. I have accumulated so much, thoughts, feelings, dreams, expectations relating to work and life. It is too much. I don’t want the second part of my life the same. Not that the first part was bad, it was not. It was not great either. I struggled. My life was too much of everything. I do not want to live this way anymore.

I have been thinking about “letting go” for decades. One of my first occupations, I worked with people with addiction problems. This is when I first encountered the letting go concept. I was in my 20s and I was not about to let go of anything. Sure, alcoholics need to let go, but not me. Yet, the concept intrigued me and I secretly longed to let go. I wanted to be happy.

I entered into a marriage that should not have happened because of expectations I couldn’t let go. Somewhere in the twelve years of the struggling marriage with its donut makers, punch bowls, china, and big furniture, I found an article, “Letting Go” in the New Woman magazine (January, 1990). I tore that page out, put it in a plastic sleeve, and kept it through a divorce, a new career path, a daughter, several dogs and cats, friends entering in and out and back in, and several moves.

Here I am looking at this article about letting go…. And I am finally doing it, letting go of paper, books, magazines, cable, wireless, a land line phone, debt of all kinds, toxic people, holding on to my daughter, a 30 year job. Not only is the donut maker and punch bowl left my house, so did the couch, about 75 contractor bags of paper, about 24 coffee mugs, several electronics, gadgets, old cameras that no longer have the kind of film that is required, 24 chargers (to what, who knows), and items that would require an inventory specialist to program. Not one of these items was worth more than twenty dollars each. Even the couch was old, ripped, torn and faded. I called the Salvation Army and they would not take it. The Salvation Army did take away two sets of bedroom furniture and other unneeded items. I gave away what I could, donated what they would take, recycled what I could, and the rest in big plastic contractor-garbage bags.

I started about six months ago. I have this intense need to hold on. I wanted my daughter, who is now 27, to always be my little girl. I kept her books, baby clothes, (honestly clothes from every age), boxes of elementary papers. Well, the list goes on. I struggled, it seemed unnatural. Of course, we want to hold on. I like that I am loyal and dedicated. I like it when someone needs something, they come to me. I like to feel needed.

I just knew I needed a big change. I was not happy. I was confused and carried a heavy burden throughout my days. I would walk into my house; there were the same pictures, the same memories, the same bills, and the same everything. There was a burden. It was hard to breathe sometimes and there was no room for another person. One time, I just went to a hotel, for the sole purpose to get away from my home. My finances were messy, my relationships were spirally down, and I looked and felt horrible.

I am not one to throw caution to the wind, but God intervened. I discovered yoga, and strived for a simple life. I wanted time in my life for people. My family and friends think I was being impulsive, I wasn’t. I had this article on letting go, since 1990. This was planned and its time. I researched the concept of letting go which lead me to minimalizing which lead me to Miss Minimalist. Motivator. Enthusiast. Perfect.

I started big, not gradual. I knew I wanted part two of my life to be free, light and simple. Once I started, it was fun, invigorating and so very needed. I started with my closet and my bedroom, then moved on to all the bedrooms, living room, bathroom, kitchen, all closets, basement and finally the garage and shed. I now just have in my home what I truly need and a couple of items that bring me joy. My father has this saying, “Don’t ever love anything that does not love you back.” This was and is my mantra!

I canceled credit cards. I changed to a bank that is more in line with my new philosophy. I wrote letters to companies and magazines and with a bold black marker wrote, “Please take me off all mailing lists”. I changed my email address and vow no more signing up for random emails. Pictures came off the shelves and walls. I took digital pictures of everything and scanned like there is no tomorrow. I stored the pictures and scans on an external hard drive. No more knick-knacks. No more weird collections. No more clocks in every room. No more TV, cable, and other distractions. Not one non-breathing thing has come in to my house in three months. (Except for food). I promise to never ever be cluttered again. It was a burden. And now it’s lifted.  Whew! My house is lighter and I can breathe a bit easier. Thank you, Miss Minimalist.

I am standing my ground; which brings me to the next and most important stage. Letting go of 30 years of stuff was challenging, yet, I did it!  Now, I need to let go of the emotional clutter and the overwhelming need to hold on to everything. This includes letting go of worn out relationships. I have stayed with people longer than I should have. This includes holding on to goals that I made in my teens, this is letting go of certain expectations. I do not know who thought of all these expectations, but they need to go. And this is my challenge for now. As I move through the process of letting go of this emotional clutter and letting go of the need of hanging on for reasons that I don’t fully understand; I am feeling lighter, brighter, enjoyable and lovable. I am simply making room for all the good.

{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: Cheryl Magyar

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 feature Cheryl Magyar. Last year, her husband Roland introduced us to their minimalist lifestyle in Hungary; now Cheryl shares her side of the story. Be sure to visit their lovely blog, Handcraftedtravellers, to learn more!

Cheryl writes:

Cheryl

Cheryl

Thoughts become actions, simplicity becomes routine and once you remove yourself from a consumer mindset you will never go back.

In a suburb of Chicago I grew up in a small house which held a considerable amount of stuff. Everybody had their own personal belongings, we shared many things, but you know how it is with calendar holidays: from birthdays to merry days presents just add up. It accumulates till you feel trapped, then you give some away – and this cycle can go on forever, until you are the one to slow down the process, almost stopping it entirely.

Moving to Hungary at the age of twenty-seven was the catalyst for a major lifestyle change. My husband and I shipped twenty boxes full of books and kitchenware, two trunks bursting with clothes and some artwork we thought we couldn’t live without. We arrived long before our stuff, then ironically put it in storage for four months till the purchase of our homestead was complete.

We thought that we had made the international move with few items, but in retrospect it turned out to be too much, definitely more than we needed. People tried to give us clothes seeing that our wardrobes were “stagnant”, they tried to help occasionally with processed foods, only our hearts were not in an accepting mood.

In moving out of the cityscape not only had we inadvertently discovered the benefits of minimalism, knowing full well that what we owned was already enough, but living so close to nature our paradigm was rapidly shifting.

The relative quiet of the countryside is an inspiring place for observation and reflection. As I write this story a white wagtail (Mortacilla alba) is cleaning its feathers in the pinkish glow of the rising sun, presently joined by another. They will find lots to eat on our organic thirteen acres, then they may return to their nests, delicately woven with bits of plastic from neighboring lands and the trash of society.

And by that very measure, what some may perceive as cuteness or resourcefulness of the birds, brings a tear to my eye not only for the plight of creatures, but of man and the waste created by industry, the wants, the need to constantly fit in by buying more, the consumption that arises from boredom…

One can never be out of the consumer cycle completely. However, we can all live lighter, with deeper regard for the environment by not wanting more than we need, by choosing quality over quantity, supporting organic agriculture, purchasing locally grown, choosing handmade, wearing compostable fibers and by embracing the art of self-reliance.

A sustainable world is based on minimalist principles. For my part, that is where I live right now, always and onward into the future.

{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: Kevin

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, Kevin shares his take on minimalism, from his perspective as a philosopher and father. Visit his blog to read more of his thoughts.

Kevin writes:

Kevin

Kevin

I think I’ve always been a minimalist at heart but have recently become much more mindful about it. When I lived alone in my own condominium it was quite easy to be a minimalist. Although I am a bookworm, I had only a few bookshelves so that limited my collection of books. I enjoyed the open space of my living room without a coffee table and the clean surfaces of my kitchen table and counter tops. As a musician and composer I am a big fan of the minimalist music of Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

Now I am married, have a daughter, and live in a house. My life is full in so many positive ways but also fuller in some non-minimalist ways! As an unschooling dad I realize the importance of “strewing” but needless to say this conflicts with a minimalist approach to living. My definition of “just right” has had to change but that’s quite natural.

To solve the practical problem of clutter we have devised a system in our family that seems to work pretty well. We have a designated “playroom” where chaos is allowed to run a little freer than in other parts of the house. We also have “zones” in the living room/dining room area where we can accommodate projects. So, for us these active or ongoing projects (crafts, etc.) don’t get defined as clutter. They don’t entail clutter that never gets put away but rather an active process of creation. Of course, when a new project comes along or it’s time for a meal we do clear off the relevant spaces.

In addition to these accommodations, there are certain rooms in the house where clutter is not allowed at all. These rooms are used (as opposed to formal living rooms which never get used) but we just don’t let clutter hang around at all.

Fatherhood provides me an excellent opportunity to teach some important minimalist lessons. Among these is a lesson I also teach as a philosophy professor: the difference between wants and needs.

I think the confusion between these two categories drives a lot of the consumerism that prevents people from seeing the benefits of minimalism. Given a strong natural impulse towards acquisitiveness, it’s important to begin teaching the benefits of living with less at an early age. As parents, freeing our children from the grip of constantly chasing their wants is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

As a philosopher I think of my work as “clearing the clutter” from our thinking. Much of what I do i my classes is to help students clarify their thinking on such important issues as ethics, morality, knowledge, and reality. Making distinctions like the one between wants and needs is an important part of this clutter clearing.

Making the connection between our values and our stuff is important and provides a good philosophical foundation for striving to live in a minimalist way.

I write about the philosophical work of clarifying as well other topics of education and unschooling on my blog titled “Think” which is located at http://kevinjbrowne.weebly.com/blog1.html.

{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: Verity

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 pleased to feature Verity, who tells us how she’s simplified her household while adding to her family. Check out her blog for more tips on living a minimalist life with young children.

Verity writes:

Verity

Verity

If you had met me 10 years ago, I would have been the worst candidate for minimalism. More was more to me. Even in junior high, I started collecting furniture and decorations to furnish my future home. My relatives soon learned that I was happy to take anything they were getting rid of.

As a newlywed, our first apartment’s clutter level was manageable only because my husband is a natural-born minimalist who brought hardly any junk into the marriage.

Within 3 months, a fixer-upper home purchase led to an influx of tools, and 3 months after that, two relatives downsized and lovingly donated much of their old furniture and books to us. I had enthusiastically agreed to take their stuff, but gaining 40 years of built-up clutter was a powerful object lesson not even lost to a natural hoarder like me. I still remember standing in the garage surrounded by the ceiling-high stacks, and feeling for the first time, the true weight of possessions. Our house was still under construction, I was 2 months pregnant, I couldn’t lift most of the ‘donations,’ and I didn’t know where half of it should go.

Five months later our first child was born early, and church members, friends, and family gave us bags and bags of clothing and toys. As an optimist and people-pleaser, I never told anyone ‘no,’ and I always thought I would use the items.

I realized it had gone too far when at a year, my toddler had TWENTY-THREE pairs of pajamas.

I thought back to when my son was born. We only had 5 preemie sleepers that fit him his first 6 weeks. That had felt very easy to maintain. Why was it so much harder now that he had so many clothes?

In desperation, I googled “how many outfits should a toddler have?” I downsized his clothes to 12 outfits and was thrilled to find at least laundry manageable.

With the birth of baby number 2 and the start of a family business, things were stressful again. I worked desperately to maintain balance by reducing family clothing to 8 outfits per person and decluttering the kitchen and bedrooms. Again things got easier.

That was about the time I ran across Francine Jay’s book. It was incredibly freeing. I learned that I could let go of old objects, unfulfilled and outdated dreams, and others’ expectations of me to strive for what I really wanted. My eyes were opened to the weight that possessions had on me, and I gained the courage to say ‘no’ to well-meaning family that wanted to ‘help’ by giving me items.

Since then we’ve gotten rid of at least half our stuff even though we’ve had two more children. Clearing out most of the basement opened up space to finish a place for the kids to play and a guest room, 5-6 every day outfits per person has helped me keep laundry under control, and maintaining a clear-of-knick knacks living area has kept the chaos at bay despite 4 children under the age of 5. While our friends with smaller families are moving to bigger houses, I’m surprisingly content with where I am.

Embracing the ideas that drive minimalism has helped me to let go of stuff not only physically but emotionally. I was able to get focused on what was important to me: my relationships with God, my husband, and my children.

Moreover, the concepts of contentment prevalent in a simpler approach to life have helped me to teach my children contentment instead of a need to gain. What started as a personal journey for me has become a family journey. We make our purchases and choices based on family goals, conviction, and faith instead of what the culture says we need.

Baby #4 just arrived, and we are living comfortably and happily in a small rambler with no plans to move in the near future.

{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: Rhiannon

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, we hear from Rhiannon, who tells us how the birth of her son helped her finally conquer her clutter.

Rhiannon writes:

My cousin and I have joked about how the hoarding gene runs in the family. It is not a joke so much as a sad reality. My mother is a compulsive shopper who could never get rid of anything. My step-father was a compulsive “collector” who could never get rid of anything. The large house we lived in was full of things and a total disaster. The 2 car garage was rarely able to hold one car. The last time I was in that garage, it was so full I had to brace against the ceiling for balance as I climbed over the piles.

My desire for less stuff was born in that house. My room was always tidy and neat, I had the least amount of stuff out of anyone in the family. At 16 I moved to my dad’s house and into a much smaller room. I got rid of more stuff and better organized. In college, I started collecting things; books, hobbies, movies, trinkets. One of my roommates teased me about all the stuff I had in my tiny room of our tiny attic apartment. I didn’t like the fact that she was right. When my brother and his family moved back into the country, I was able to give them all my household stuff. But I still held onto a lot. Each move I made I didn’t get rid of anything.

And then I got married.

My husband lived in California. I lived in Minnesota. Begrudgingly, I got rid of some stuff, stuffed my car full, and drove out West. We bought a huge bookcase for all of our books and trinkets and lived a steadily more cluttered life as well-meaning relatives gave us all kinds of odd gifts that were shoved into the Room-of-Doom (storage room).

And then I got pregnant.

Suddenly we didn’t need a Room of Doom so much as we NEEDED a nursery. That huge tippy bookshelf looked extremely dangerous for a baby to be anywhere near. Out it went. With it went almost all of our books. We have books on our phones now, so what was the point of hanging on to all these books that would never be read again? (I saved a few favorites that aren’t available on e-book.)

As my due date grew closer, all the things I had and all the time spent dealing with everything seemed very silly and unimportant. More stuff went out the door.

After our son was born and we got a real understanding of what it REALLY meant to have a baby in the house, the last of the superfluous stuff left the house. Most of my hobbies and their accessories went out the door. We didn’t want anything to distract us from the joy of just spending time with our baby.

When we bought a house a few months ago, we picked the smallest house that we could find (almost 700 sq feet smaller than my mother’s cluttered house) in the area that we wanted. We didn’t run out to buy STUFF to fill it with. We looked at how we actually wanted to use the space and arranged our furniture accordingly. My husband and I talk about what we don’t want to buy or how we can get better organized.

I have less personal stuff now. Everything that I own could fit into 3 bags. We do have a surprising amount of baby things, but nothing that won’t be sold after he out grows it. We have been able to avoid getting more useless gifts from relatives by suggesting that they focus on the baby. I have found homes for 2 of the 3 sets of china that my husband and I inherited from our families. (My husband informed me that we are stuck with the last set of china. He says that being in a family means that you hand down useless stuff that nobody wants to the next generation.)

I may never live in a mini house, although I adore them. But I love the house that I am in. I like that it is easy to clean and I know where everything is. I don’t have to dig around for anything anymore or worry about what my toddler is getting into. When we have guests come over, I am often invited to their houses to de-clutter.

Moreover I love the peace of mind I get from just having a clean, well-organized, and useful space.

{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: Freda

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, Freda tells us about living the simple life as a painter in Scotland. Be sure to visit her blog to read more, and see her lovely artwork and photos.

Freda writes:

Freda’s garden gate

I am an artist trying to live a more simple life (but not too simple!)

I think it is possible to live simply and also be design conscious, love beautiful and sophisticated things and still be ethical and environmentally responsible. What I’m saying is that I’m not a brown rice and sandals and back to the land minimalist, though I admire those who are. And I’m not a count the number of things I own type either, yet I have cut down and am still cutting down…. Neither am I set on the frugal path though I believe thrift is in my DNA.

So what kind of minimalist am I?

Well I try to live simply in order to have more time and energy to Simply Live, mindfully. I live in a modest wooden house by a sea loch in Scotland. I now have fewer, better things which I love and which last. I spend a lot of time choosing then keep things for a long, long time. I know what I like – modern classics – and am willing to wait, for years if necessary, for the right thing to come along. I don’t mind too much if things get a bit worn, but I have just replaced my 20 year old white cotton curtains with the moth holes in them! So with a house furnished with beautiful, though not necessarily expensive things which look good and function well and are easy to look after I can concentrate on living my life to the full with time for family, friends, travel and work I love. (I am a painter.)

I began my blog Live Simply Simply Live in order to think through aspects of my life which I could simplify – how I eat, work, play and spend my money, and I found that writing short posts under each topic helped me to think more clearly, and make changes at a realistic pace. I’ve been writing the daily blog and simplifying my life for four years now and I love it. Researching other blogs on the topics of minimalism (thank you Miss Minimalist) and simple living and getting insightful and encouraging comments from readers had been wonderfully enriching in the things that matter – communication and connection and sharing.

Simply joyous.

{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.}