Real Life Minimalists: Sharity

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, Sharity tells us how her house was (literally) cracking apart beneath her—and how it inspired her to live a lighter, freer, more minimalist life.

Sharity writes:

I don’t recall the exact moment when I discovered minimalism, but I’ve been reading about it and working on it for myself for at least a couple of years now.

I grew up with a mentally ill mother, and it wasn’t until the popularity of shows like Hoarders that I realized my mom was a hoarder. Correction: HOARDER. (She passed away in 1995 and cleaning out her house was an incredible experience, but it still didn’t quite make me a minimalist.)

When I moved out to go to college (ok, escaped) I took everything with me to my dorm room. Everything. My dorm room was packed and chock full of stuff that I now realize I did. not. need. There was a girl a couple of doors down from me, and I remember looking into her room more than once and being amazed at how neat and orderly it was. She had almost nothing. Her bed, a desk. Eight magazine covers of her favorite models (she was tall and gorgeous and could have been one) above her bed and all her clothes in the closet. Again, in retrospect, I’m sure she did better in school than I did because she could most likely focus better than I ever could in all my mess.

My mother passed away about a year after I graduated college. It was a tough experience; she had cancer and I quit my job and moved back home to help care for her the last 5 1/2 months of her life. Most of my stuff wound up in my friends basement, there certainly wasn’t anywhere to put it at my moms. Once the estate settled, I decided I wanted a new life and moved to a different state. I got rid of a lot because I couldn’t afford to move it. I had a small apartment with very little in it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I really loved the simplicity of that little place.

Fast forward some years and a couple of moves to new states, and I thought I was ready to settle. My (now) husband and I bought a house. And we filled it up. Then, about two years in, we found out our house had a serious structural problem in the form of a slow subsidence sinkhole under it. Insurance denied our claim, and it took 9 years to work our way through the system and get the house situation resolved. Nine years of living in a house that is slowly cracking apart underneath you will change your perspective on a lot of things. (We couldn’t afford to move out of it during the process because if we stopped paying our mortgage then our lawsuit would have gone away.)

I am proud to say we are now almost at 1 year of crackhouse-free living. With our hard-fought for insurance settlement we bought a much smaller house that will be paid for in two years or less. I purged an incredible amount of stuff before we moved from 1700 square feet to 720 square feet and we still had a garage packed to the rafters when we first moved in. I consistently work at reducing our possessions, reading and learning about leading a simpler life and stress free living. My husband has made it clear he is unwilling to go any smaller, so I can forget having a tiny house, (darn it) but I am continually amazed at how lighter and freer life has become. I’m not done yet; we’ve cleared a lot of debt and a lot of crap. My goals are to be able to work less, travel more and enjoy my down time instead of spending it cleaning or yes even de-cluttering. Some projects are harder than others. I love books, but clearing out over 1000 books (and going digital) has proven to be easier than letting go of some favorite clothes that are no longer age or lifestyle appropriate.

I’m a work in progress looking forward to the second half of my life as an adventure, not a a struggle to maintain a bunch of things that don’t matter anyway.

{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: Natalie

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 Natalie. She tells us how minimalism helped her family reclaim not only their space, but also their time. Read more about her new “unbusy” life on her blog.

Natalie writes:

Natalie

Natalie

I’m Natalie, a 36 year old married mother of 3 kids from Melbourne Australia.

Being part of a family of five means that there is a lot of “stuff” in our home–toys, clothes, paperwork, food, junk, junk, junk.

My minimalism journey began by accident around mid-2013. I had heard the term minimalism and was curious to find out what it meant so here I was, in the middle of the night, researching minimalism while my family was fast asleep. What I discovered rang alarm bells and made me realise that this was how I wanted to live my life: this would be a new beginning for our family.

Our first home declutter session yielded 16 garbage-sized bags of items that we donated to charity, and countless items that were discarded or given to friends.

I found myself with not only less items in our home, but a tidier house, which meant less cleaning for me! This gave us more time to spend together as a family–summer 2014 and we spent many weekends down at the beach, at parks and playgrounds and also hiking with our kids. My husband and I had time to spend as a couple, and we spent less time and energy worrying about money, work and other everyday stresses. Some challenges were still there, but we had changed our attitudes and views and we had different priorities.

Fast forward 10 months and what I had learnt by creating a more minimalist lifestyle for my family was that part of what contributed to the “maxi” lifestyle we once had was that we were too busy–spending too much time, energy and money focused on those things that are not important. Our busyness had contributed to a house full of “stuff”, and a mind full of “stuff”. It was more than just the physical elements of a crazy lifestyle that made us reach a breaking point–it was taking a toll on us mentally.

In May 2014, I decided to create a blog “Unbusy Me” which focuses on helping others and sharing advice on how to create a less busy life, and also shares with readers ways that I spend my time now that I am less busy (for example, travelling and healthy cooking).

I live in a very family-oriented community, with lots of young families and couples just beginning their life journeys together and I do see many who struggle with keeping up a level of lifestyle that I can only imagine involves lots of sacrifice of time, health and wellbeing. I hope to be able to reach out to some of these people and show them a different way of living which has helped our family become more happy and healthy.

{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: Dee

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’d like to introduce you to Dee, who chronicles her relationship with stuff from her childhood to her (more minimalist) present. What a wonderful transformation she’s made in her perspective on possessions!

Dee writes:

Since childhood, my relationship with my stuff has been complicated. My parents would never be on television for their hoarding – there were no goat trails through waist-high piles of clutter, no rodents or trash in the living room – but each of them had hoarding tendencies.

My mother cannot let go of furniture that is in good condition, no matter how cluttered it makes her home. When she bought her second dining room table, she moved the old one over five feet and put the new one right next to it. She now has six dining room tables. Some were purchased, some were taken from people who couldn’t sell them. Her house is 5000 square feet, and she lives in it alone, an old woman surrounded by furniture and decorative knickknacks.

My father was a paper and “information” hoarder. About 800 square feet of the house was dedicated to his “office space”, filled with conference tables and filing cabinets. For a few years, he methodically filed articles of interest in four-drawer filing cabinets. After he filled sixteen four-drawer cabinets, he started piling the papers on the tables. When he died, every flat surface was covered with piles of paper, stacks of CDs, even teetering piles of old 5-inch floppy disks. He owned more than seven computers when he died. I can only imagine how cluttered his hard drives were.

With parents like that, you’d imagine I was given free rein to keep as much stuff as I wanted within the confines of my room. Instead, my parents exerted their own control over my property. Nothing was truly mine – every item I owned was subject to being given away or tossed out on a whim, particularly by my narcissistic mother. My sisters often searched my room and took any items of interest, then denied having done so. I learned to jealously guard my treasures and hide them from others for fear of losing them to theft or the whims of a hoarder parent.

At 20, I moved out of the parental home and in with my boyfriend, a self-described “collector” of music memorabilia. We were poor, but we were avid shoppers at thrift stores, often driving for miles to hunt down treasures. My boyfriend respected my things and encouraged me to indulge myself in cheap stuff. I started collecting all kinds of things – books, decorative glass, record albums, posters, costume jewelry. It was a bit like having a second childhood, one where I could own my stuff and only I could decide what stayed or went.

But all of it stayed and I avoided getting rid of anything. Within a year or two, our small apartment was overrun with stuff, much of it piled onto teetering shelves made from reclaimed wooden boards and cinderblocks we found in dumpsters.

The idea that we had too much stuff came upon me gradually. We were living in a cluttered mess, but it was the little things I noticed: books that got moldy before I could read them; photos that were destroyed by humidity; vintage clothes that got moth-eaten as they sat in boxes under the bed; furniture that had gotten so dusty, the dust had melded into the varnish. I read books on hoarding and realized that my parents hadn’t given me good examples of how normal people use and discard possessions.

As I started to weed out my no-longer-treasured treasures, my boyfriend’s discomfort with anything “musical” leaving the house intensified. I reined in my desire to control his possessions and focused on getting rid of my own. The discarding process became a joy as I realized that I was making the decisions about what I got rid of, not my controlling, hoarding parents.

Today I have come full circle: it bothers me to have an item I’m not using, even if I have space for it, and I can easily let go of items I no longer need. I still have more decorative objects than most minimalists, but they are all items I love and that fit the space I have without clutter. My closets are full, but not stuffed, and every item in there is worn and useful. My home is neat, well-organized, and uncluttered. Every day, I try to find something I can donate or resell.

Most importantly, I have learned how to truly own my own stuff, not to have my stuff own me.

{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: Jake DaSilva, Minimalist Outdoorsman

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 hear from Jake DaSilva, Minimalist Outdoorsman. I’m happy he’s shared his story with us, as it’s so different than any we’ve had in the past—illustrating how minimalism can apply to a wide spectrum of lifestyles and interests.

Jake writes:

Even though I grew up rural and poor I never wanted for material items; rather I wanted time and experiences. This value has governed my life and fortified my minimalism. And while most people talk of their path to minimalism I want to describe my present in minimalism.

I am an avid outdoorsman. I like fishing, canoeing, foraging, shooting guns, and occasionally going hunting – for waterfowl mostly. These activities are generally considered equipment-intensive but I have found ways to minimize the equipment and still take thrill in the experience and – in the case of fishing and hunting – still take my harvests.

Let me clear up a few things. I don’t fish or hunt for trophies. I fish and hunt for delicious, wild, organic, free-flying or free-swimming foods.

As a minimalist angler I keep two fishing poles. One is rigged up for light action. The other is rigged up for medium action. I fish with worms only – panfish worms (wax worms, meal worms, butter worms) and night crawlers. Fishing with live bait means I don’t have a tackle box full of tackle. My tackle box has small hooks, some split-shot sinkers, a few bobbers, a stringer, hemostats, and not much else. I carry a small cooler with ice for dispatching my catch humanely.

The fish I pursue are sunfish and catfish. Panfish worms catch the sunnies and nightcrawlers catch the cats. These two fish have generous limits, if any, and are indigenous to most bodies of water here in Ohio, “The Heart of It All.”

I fish from the bank in boots or waders. I fish from my canoe too.

I also hunt from my canoe, which is a solo 12 footer. I have a tiny fleet of 6 mallard and 8 Canada goose decoys. I use natural cover or small pop-up blind. Waders, a camo coat, a PFD, and a 12 gauge shotgun round out my gear – along with a couple calls on lanyard around my neck.

When I go clay shooting, I use an inexpensive but sturdy pump shotgun – no tweed vests or expensive cigars in my mouth and certainly no $5,000 shotgun. That just wouldn’t be minimalist.

For foraging I simply use a step ladder. The feral mulberries and apples of Ohio awaken the senses and delight the tummy.

By having just the bare essentials of these outdoor hobbies allows me to more often enjoy them. Rather than working my days away to buy more gear or tinkering my nights away on gadgets I can be out on the water reeling in big bluegill for my butter masala or harvesting a goose for stew in the crock pot or simply enjoying a spring day shooting sporting clays with a friend.

As for my minimalist street cred: I own about 246 things at the time of this writing. While I don’t think that counting every possession is a system that works for everyone, it works for me. I can’t simply play jazz with my minimalism. I need the numbers. I share an 1100 square foot house with two housemates. 175 square feet are my personal space – bathroom and bedroom. Living room, garage, etc. are shared spaces, obviously. I have a rescue dog; his name is Harlan. He is allowed 10 possessions of his own.

I apply minimalism to virtually every aspect of my life. I do not own a computer. I do not own any books. I do not own, take, or appear in any photographs (except my driver’s license and my passport). I shave my head. I own only dark colored clothing to minimize laundry-related tasks. My car is small, I am transitioning to a car-lite lifestyle, and I have a five year plan to go car-free. I have two pieces of art on my wall, both by local artists I know personally. My diet is low on the food chain – mostly beans, rice, oats, fruits and veggies from my garden, nature’s garden, or from the nearest grocery store. I obviously supplement this with fish and game. I also practice mindfulness meditation – the ultimate in minimalist hobbies!

While vanquishing my vanity is something I strive to do each day, I wanted to take this opportunity to present myself as an example of an unconventional minimalist. My hope being that adding to the diversity of the ranks of known minimalists will eventually lead to an overall increase in the ranks of minimalists at large.

{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 Update: Kim

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 an update from Kim, who was featured in this series last September. I think we can all relate to how some clutter falls through the cracks, and how it’s best to remember how far we’ve come!

Kim writes:

Kim

Kim

A year ago, I waxed lyrical on my journey towards minimising the number of books I own, rapidly decreasing their numbers from 2000 to just a couple of hundred. I hadn’t actually counted, I know that if I go down that road there will be no end to it – items in the cutlery drawer, pairs of socks, hairs on head. So, imagine, if you will, my surprise when I discovered a box, medium in size, cardboard slightly damp to touch, shunted away in a far and distant corner of my loft (or attic depending on where you reside). I may have been tempted to ignore it, assume it wasn’t mine, (I have a good handle on how much I own after all) and merrily get on with my day. The problem was, mine or not, the slate cold of the cardboard led me to be concerned for its contents and so open it I must.

The tape crumbled around my hands, glad I’m sure of a final respite from its failed adhesive mission, and the spongy lids bent open in an unpleasant and guilty manner. Beneath their swollen, corrugated mass lay books, my books. Long forgotten and cast upon the mercy of a damp Victorian loft some had wrinkled, curling in upon themselves as though in protection, like a woodlouse crouching at the back of a rabbit hutch. At the bottom lay my most guilty finds, two hardback first editions, bent in the middle like a spine straining to lift a great weight. I felt pretty stupid in all honesty.

With my tail firmly between my legs, I dutifully hauled them down from the loft, paying penance for my oversight on a hot afternoon, and dried them in the sun. Upon inspection, I decided to keep a couple, for now at least and bagged the rest up for charity, luckily, none were so damaged that a charity wouldn’t be able to make use of them. And so I sat in the sun, next to a pile of books I didn’t know I still owned, and closed my eyes. I let the sun gently turn my eyelids red and warm my skin. I felt silly, guilty and fraudulent. I have delved into the loft to clear things many times over the past two years, how did a fairly sizable, weighty box manage to completely evade me in this way?

I sensed my cat, Molly, before I opened my eyes to find her reclining luxuriantly at my feet. As I sat stoking her white-as-snow tummy, I remembered the length of the road I had travelled these past two years. I reminded myself that the biggest change must come from within and not from counting possessions, but, if I did decide to count, which I don’t, that I had probably come close to halving the amount of stuff in my life and that is no mean feat in a short space of time. The box itself wasn’t really the issue, I realised that I should push away all thoughts of guilt and failure and concentrate on how easy it was to decide to part with what I had found. Maybe it was worth finding that box so that I could be reminded of this.

Whether you are new to this path or have been walking so long your soles are grazing the earth, there will always be moments, hiccups in time that challenge your concept of progress. During these small ruptures in the fabric of your thinking, please, take a moment to sit quietly and remember all that you have accomplished so far.

{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: Lauren

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, Lauren tells us how she discovered the joys of minimalism through long-distance hiking. Visit her blog to follow her on her journey.

Lauren writes:

Lauren

Lauren

Some aspects of minimalism have always come naturally to me, but I can point to my 2006 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail as a turning point. I had not done much backpacking before I set out for this 2,200 mile walk up and down the hills and mountains of the eastern United States, but it didn’t take long for me to learn that the more stuff I carried on my back, the more uncomfortable I would be and the less able to enjoy the stunning scenery or conversations with fellow hikers. As I hiked north I learned how to reduce my pack-weight and still stay reasonably warm and dry in the woods. I became a proficient lightweight backpacker, hiking for almost five months, carrying all of my possession on my back and stopping in towns along the way once or twice a week to replenish my food supplies, do laundry and a enjoy a shower and a restaurant meal. Most days I walked all day, and to steal a line from Forest Gump, “When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.”

And I was happy. On the trail, freed from our belongings and the constant distractions of cell phones, televisions and the internet, as well as from the categories that society places us in, I connected deeply  and meaningfully with other hikers that I might not have had the opportunity to know in the “real world” because of different ages or socioeconomic statuses. On the trail, these distinctions became meaningless. We shared a common goal and a lifestyle. I also connected with members of the communities through which the trail passes. People who provide services, help and kindness to hikers are called trail angels. My own vulnerability in a new and sometimes harsh environment opened me up to receive the kindness of strangers and to fully experience the joy of being part of a community. The slower pace of life necessitated by walking as the only means of transportation seemed to make me and my fellow travelers more approachable to strangers who on several occasions shared intimate details about their lives.

While paring down necessities is an aspect of minimalism that has always come easily to me, simplifying my life in regard to limiting commitments of my time has been an ongoing struggle. During my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, as well as subsequent 2000+ mile hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail, I spent a total of fourteen months focusing solely on one goal. All day, everyday, I walked. In doing so, I achieved my most notable accomplishments. I have hiked the entire length of the United States twice, and came dang close a third time. I have walked 7,000 miles during these three long distance hikes. In other times of my life, working towards three or four goals at a time while maintaining social, work, and community obligations, I have accomplished far less. I continue to strive to simplify my time and commitments to allow me to live a simple and purpose-driven life even when I am in society, where distractions are much more pervasive than on trail. I know that simplifying is necessary for environmental, spiritual and social justice reasons. From my experiences on America’s long distance hiking trails, I also know that a simple and focused life with minimal possessions allows me to take in the scenery, connect with my fellow travelers, and to enjoy the journey more thoroughly. As a wise man once told me, “The journey is the reward.”

I wrote about my recent Continental Divide Trail hike at peanutbutterandfrosting.wordpress.com, and will continue to write about my outdoor pursuits on that blog. That blog has links to my previous trail journals as well.

{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: Nyamka

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 Nyamka, who tells us how minimalism changed the course of her career and her life. Stop by her blog to learn more about her journey.

Nyamka writes:

Nyamka

Nyamka

Recently, it dawned on me that my life would be just like everyone in my life, busy. Growing up my parents were busy. My father was quite busy as a doctor, often working over time staying at the hospital overnight. My mother was also busy working full time, leaving early in the morning before I woke up, and when she came home she had housework to do. I wish I got to spend more time with them.

I wanted a different life than my parents, of course. A life where people had time to spend with each other, but I didn’t know there was any other way, and so I was on the same path as everyone around me, busy, working hard to secure a safe future. From observation, this was often at the expense of their health and relationships.

My decisions in life were made with the purpose to be safe and comfortable. I was to become a lawyer for the same purpose, plus I could be good at it. I studied full time to finish my bachelor’s degree majoring in economics and finance, and after graduating I was to apply to law school. I knew graduate law was going to time consuming. I knew that life as a lawyer involved lots of long hours for years. I didn’t know a single young lawyer who had work life balance. Still, I continued with my plan. I thank the magic of Internet for allowing me to stumble upon minimalism.

From the start I was enamoured with minimalism. A different lifestyle was possible. It was so different to what I had experienced in life. Have what you love, and love what you have. Then apply this principle to every aspect of your life. People had only what they needed and this allowed them to be less busy and spend more time doing what they loved.

Initially, I thought it was unachievable for me, but after reading every blog post written on Zen habits, Miss Minimalist, and few other blogs on minimalism I gleaned the courage to become a minimalist myself. It was the human stories that made the principle of minimalism come alive to me. The stories and examples showed me that everyone had to start from somewhere.

Knowing there was a different option, I started de-cluttering. I de-cluttered till the two shelves in my room had nothing on it. Soon my table had nothing on it. I got rid of bags and bags of stuff. I started a blog to chronicle my journey. That got me thinking on paper, which made me question my life more objectively. Eventually it lead me to move out from home. I wanted the freedom to edit my life.

When I graduated, I didn’t apply for law school as planned. Some people were surprised. I was surprised too. For a few months I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I had the freedom to choose my own direction but I had nothing, I hadn’t thought about what I wanted to do in my life before. I had a very vague idea. I wanted a life where I was healthy, happy, and had time for my loved ones. It was difficult to figure out how to get there, but I got there in the end.

Getting rid of the material clutter helped to get rid of the mental clutter. With time and space to really think about my life, within a few months I figured out what I wanted to do. I figured out what made me happy all along, I just never paid attention to it. I can say now with full certainty that I like helping people, cooking, and writing.

Through minimalism I understood I had personal responsibility to shape the life I wanted to live. I have finished de-cluttering, but I will always be simplifying my life.

Thanks to minimalism, I have managed to combine my passion for cooking and helping people. I am going to be a Health Coach soon. I wish I came across minimalism sooner. If you have been waiting for a sign to start, this is it! Go for it!

If you relate to this story follow me on my journey to be well, do good, and change the world one simple step at a time at www.agirlcallednyamka.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: Minimalist Mommy

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, Minimalist Mommy gives us an inspiring account of how she decluttered her toddler’s toys. I think all of us with little ones can relate to her story!

Minimalist Mommy writes:

Minimalist Mommy

Minimalist Mommy

I am a stay at home mom of 2 wonderful children. My son is 3 years old and my daughter is 3 months old. Before my son was born we were so excited for his arrival that we gathered up as many toys we could from garage sales and hand me downs from friends and made our entire bonus room into quite the playroom! He had so many toys and he wasn’t even born yet! Once he got to the age were he could actually play with all these toys, we discovered how quickly our home became a complete disaster, multiple times a day. I spent so much time cleaning up and maintaining these toys and it was getting quite irritating.

Then we went on a vacation to Kauai. We had very limited space to bring toys with us so I just packed his favorites, a handful of hotwheel cars, his favorite books, a watercolor paint set, crayons and color book and maybe a few other small items. We were there for 8 days and he was perfectly content with what I brought. That was kind of my “Ah ha” moment. As soon as we got back home I donated about half of his toys. And you know what? He didn’t even notice! Since then I’ve been slowly paring down the toys and only keep what he really loves and plays with and now he has about 1/4 of what he had and he doesn’t miss any of it!

Once I got pregnant with my daughter the “nesting” kicked in and I was inspired by all these famous minimalists online to pare down my whole house. And I did! I gave away about 1/2 to 3/4 of what we own. And once again I don’t miss any of it! Now that I have a toddler and a newborn it is so nice to be able to quickly clean up any toys on the floor or any messes and have so much more time to spend with them and my husband. It’s been well worth 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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Amity

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 Amity, who writes about the benefits of being a “Mini Me.” Check out her blog to read more of her story!

Amity writes:

Amity

Amity

Once, long ago, I had an astounding number of knickknacks and t-shirts. That was the tip of the iceberg. I had two drawers (one that was meant to hold hanging folders) filled to the brim with stationary. One wide shelf of my pantry was entirely devoted to tea. I was not a hoarder; rather, a second cousin: a collector.

When I was in my early 30’s I had an epiphany. I don’t need this much stuff! Beginning in 2009 or 2010 I purged my home twice a year. Everything got an inspection and an interrogation to see if it could stay.

This is my fifth year of seeking to be a minimized me. The rewards of adopting a ‘less is more’ attitude are of such magnitude I don’t know if I can convey to you my personal pleasure. But, I am going to try.

I have more money, time, and freedom than ever before. Sound to good to be true? Hang with me. I am not making this up. This is why I aspire to always be Mini Me.

Money

By not buying anything, I am saving at an unprecedented rate. I regularly go on spending fasts for fun and for a bit of a personal challenge. I have more money left over after paying bills. Now I get mad if I don’t save at least several hundred a month. When I started, I thought I was ready to retire if I spared 300 in a month from being squandered.

Time

This is more important to me than money. I have time to relax, explore, and create. My house now is so decluttered it takes about an hour to clean. My social calendar has been minimized and I spend several nights of the week without any pressing engagements, except to pet my cats and stroll with my hubby through our older neighborhood (with very mature, beautiful landscaping and quiet streets).

Freedom

Perhaps most important of all is personal freedom. By being a Minimalist, I had low enough expenses that I could try working part time. I decided I would explore my creativity. I painted, started a blog, and wrote a book. Minimize: Kill your debt. Live your dream. was launched in December of 2013. Had I had an out-of-control shopping habit, or crippling debt, I would have never known what I was capable of when left to my own devices.

Even if you have just cleared your first surface, you will experience a benefit. That space can be admired in a new way. One space leads to other spaces being reclaimed, and then the benefits begin to multiply.

Don’t take my word for it; see for yourself. Minimize!

{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: Agilborder

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 Agilborder. She decluttered a tremendous amount of stuff in a very short time, trading a house full of possessions for the freedom of early retirement. Wonderful!

Agilborder writes:

A year ago my husband and I found our dream retirement location, but we really had not considered retiring. House prices in that area were low and “live lightly on the land” was the motto of the place we chose. We decided that if we super-downsized, became more cognizant about what we really needed, sold our stuff and big houses, we could afford to retire now.

I began researching and The Joy of Less became my model for our future. We put our 8000 sq ft (yes it is embarrassing) on the market and although our agent told us it might take 6 to 8 months to sell the whopper house, it sold to the first people who looked at it for the price we wanted. The catch…30 day closing. This is where Miss Minimalist gets my sincere thanks. By using The Joy of Less as my road map, I navigated the mountain of stuff we had accumulated. For years, I had been the keeper of all my and our extended family memorabilia because I had the big house with lots of storage. We had moved 3 times, always to larger homes and just carried all the stuff with with us. DONT EVER DO THIS! Go through every box before a move and be honest about what you really want and need!

I called up my siblings and told them that I wasn’t keeping any furniture, limited memorabilia and just what we need in retirement. They were shocked (one even suggested I might have a brain tumor that was causing this shocking change) came and tagged what they wanted, got storage units (mistake in my book, but got it out of my realm) and I had movers pack and move their stuff. Ahhh! First layer of lightening done.

Next, I had to deal with everything else. With my college aged kids who are spread around the US, I used FaceTime. It was great. My kids started out saying, just keep my stuff, but with FaceTime I was able to open a box, ask them if they really wanted to keep “squiggly bear”. When faced with the picture and a yes or no or why? prompt from me, we whittled it down to a couple of memorabilia boxes each and a mountain of clothes, electronics, and stuff for goodwill. Second layer of lightening, done.

I found it much easier to make my own decisions about my stuff after watching how ruthless my kids became. But I still had a house full of antiques and contemporary furniture that I had filled the corners of my McMansion with; most had come from my family or our weekend antiquing habit. We weren’t allowed to have a garage sale or estate sale in my snooty McMansion neighborhood (what a crock) and there was just too much and too little time to Craigslist so I called in an antique auction house and a contemporary furniture auctioneer. This was great!!!! They came in, packed and moved everything offsite to auction. And I made a lot of money on all my “stuff”. I have to tell you how wonderful my house started to look as all these layers were removed. Any remorse? Absolutely none! Layers 3&4 done!

Finally I found a great company that would take everything else on the day before closing. They are called GoneForGood. Again, if they could sell it, they give you some money for it , but mostly they took stuff like mattresses, washer/dryer (mine weren’t snooty enough for my buyer ha ha) and stuff that I just ran out of time getting rid of. I personally hauled 15 pickup truckloads of stuff to Goodwill. Hoarder? Didn’t think so… I just bought a house with giant storage in each room and a huge basement storage where we had neatly boxed and labelled 30 years of “stuff”. Never again!!!!

We closed last Friday and got the big check. It feels wonderful! We moved clothes, books, some kitchen items to our retirement home and vowed to live with the minimal amount of furniture the previous owner left until we decide what we really want and need. There is no basement or attic and little room for storage thankfully. We immediately moved to our Ski house (I know- it is 3000sqft) and we are starting the process there–thankfully, no basement or memorabilia. It goes on the market once my husband retires which will be soon with the new 1:15 hour commute.

I just wanted to let everyone know what a help the book and Miss Minimalist blog was to inspire me. Over-stuffing comes to most everyone and the process (particularly my 30-day timeline) seemed daunting, but I got it done and I feel wonderful.

I will never, ever let myself get in this position again, and I know that we just got caught up in the “we can afford more so we should have and keep more” mentality. I know there will be some judgment here about someone who owns 3 houses but over-stuffing happens to everyone, and because of all your great stories, examples, and The Joy of Less book, we will sell the second house (furnished down to the dishes) as well and will be able to retire 5 years earlier than we dreamed. We are trading stuff for lifestyle, and it feels great living more lightly. We have a long way to go, but the big albatross is gone and the plan for albatross2 is in place. The weekly feed from Miss Minimalist has been so inspiring and I really do appreciate this community. I will continue to look for ways to reduce and I have to admit I really don’t miss a thing!

{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.}