My Minimalist Story, Part 5: Starting Over


A fresh start.

Don’t get me wrong, apartment hunting in a foreign country was an exciting experience—in fact, it’s something we’d always fantasized about on our travels. Unfortunately, however, it marked the end of our blissfully minimalist, hotel life.

It had been my long-time dream to live in hotels, with nothing more than a single suitcase; and I was fortunate enough to realize it, for six weeks, while we moved from the US to the UK (see My Minimalist Story, Part 3: My Life in a Duffel Bag).

For minimalists with deep pockets, it’s a great way to live. But for those of us with more limited budgets, it can’t go on forever. The weekly rate at our last hotel was just shy of what we’d pay for a month’s rent in an apartment.

Our challenge then, was to continue living as minimally as possible in a place of our own.

First, we had to decide whether to look for a furnished or unfurnished flat. We were surprised to find that furnished flats are more prevalent than unfurnished ones here in the UK (the opposite of our experience in the US). The concept was tempting: we’d have all the stuff we’d need, without actually having to own it.

The problem: our minimalist aesthetics. Most of the apartments seemed over-furnished, with more chairs, dressers, tables, etc. than we’d ever really need (or want). While such a life might technically be minimalist, it certainly wouldn’t look (or feel) that way.

Plus, we wanted to explore living life with just the bare minimum. Starting with an empty slate seemed necessary to truly determine the essentials.

So the day our lease started, we moved our duffel bags into our empty flat—and promptly realized we were going to need some of those things we’d taken for granted in the hotels! We made an emergency trip to Tesco (the UK equivalent of a Target or Walmart), and came back with towels, pillows, sheets, and a kettle—the very first possessions of our new life.

That night, we once again slept on the floor, just as we had the night before our closing. But this time, we were at the end of the ultra-minimalist part of our journey. From here on out, we’d be acquiring rather than purging, buying rather than selling, getting rather than giving. I dreaded the idea of having to re-purchase so many of the things we’d just gotten rid of.

At the same time, however, I was thrilled to have been given a “do-over.” I regarded this new beginning as a chance to determine, and acquire, only those things that met our needs—and nothing more. Finally, I had the opportunity to discover that elusive point of just enough.

17 comments to My Minimalist Story, Part 5: Starting Over

  • how exciting! a fresh start. i’m jealous.

  • Zoe

    I love the trees at your window, what a wonderful start.

  • miss minimalist

    Thanks, Janet and Zoe! I’m so happy to be able to share my “fresh start” with you. :-)

  • What lovely nothingness! It looks like my flat did when I had floorboards put down… before I moved all my stuff back in! If only I’d intervened then, but I was so exhausted after dealing with the loony tradesman. I *still* have stuff in boxes from then, about 7 months ago! Heh. Soon, one day soon….

  • miss minimalist

    Hi Michelle! I know, I think there’s nothing more lovely than an empty room–that’s why I’ve always loved moving day. It almost seems a shame to start filling it with stuff… :-)

  • The place looks beautiful! I just wanted to say I absolutely adore your blog and look forward to more :) thanks for sharing your adventures :)

    – @yumberri

  • Heather

    Just found your blog…VERY inspiring!!! We once “lived” in an extend-stay-hotel near the Gulf Coast in Texas. Best 3 weeks of my life!!! Even with a baby in tow, we had just what we needed AND room service!!! It was fantastic. It really pushed me towards the simple living movement and now, an even more minimalist lifestyle. I look forward to hearing more about your adventures!! Very inspirational!!!

  • miss minimalist

    Thanks, McKai and Heather–great to have you here!

  • Julia

    I loved this post! I live in the UK and recently moved to a city centre apartment in Manchester. As you say, most city flats are furnished, as flat are, in my opinion, perceived as being *only* for young people starting out… The sign that you’ve ‘made it’ is that you move out to the suburbs/country and buy somewhere. Well, I’ve 45 and my husband is 48, and we are so happy to have got rid of our big heavy traditional furniture which filled our 4 bedroom house and to ‘borrow’ the landlord’s furniture. I do take your point, though, about furnished places, many are indeed too full of furniture. We were very lucky with our flat in that it was brand new and came with the option of being furnished or unfurnished. We were able to choose what furniture we wanted (out of the range offered) and everything is new and clean. None of my friends can believe how anyone at our age can give up nearly all their possessions and live with borrowed furniture, but I feel so free.

    I love, love, love your blog which I found via Simple Living Network.

  • miss minimalist

    Hey Julia! It’s great to hear from a fellow UK minimalist! :-)

    How cool that you were able to choose the furniture for your flat; that’s an ideal situation. People thought we were crazy to give up our “settled” life, too–but like you, we’re loving the freedom!

    So glad to have you here, and hope to chat more with you!

  • Christy Z

    I am a new reader, who has LOVED this series. What a riveting look at why and what we purge and what is essential.

    It isn’t practical for us to go completely minimal, but we have already unloaded about 40 carloads of stuff to the thrift store in anticipation of going overseas to do humanitarian work in the new few years. Every load I take brings me closer to my dream.

    Thanks for sharing your story – glad to have found you!

  • miss minimalist

    Christy Z, kudos to purging 40 carloads of stuff–that’s very impressive! What a wonderful plan to go overseas and do humanitarian work; I hope you’ll keep us updated on your progress!

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  • KG

    I have the opportunity to move and start over with a clean slate. The stuff I have now is being used by my son and all my other stuff I have worked on decluttering can stay in my old place for a limited time, which helps me to force the decluttering process. However, I am excited and unsure about how to start with a clean slate in my new place. I am not sure what I should bring if anything from my past life other than my years of photography and genealogy research. I am in the process of making all my paper research and old school photos digital to reduce the space those items take up. Another part of me wants to bring some items for sentamental reasons but another part of me whats to just leave my past behind and start over fresh with items I choose and love and want in my life now with no guilt if I decide to get rid of something in the future or start over again in the future. I have read your site and many others for several years now, wishing I could just start over with no guilt and now I can well except the guilt part having issues with that part. I can say I am excited to feel free of stuff and for the first time in my life having the choice of everything in my place being there because I chose it. So if anyone can give me some advice on moving and starting over as a choice and on how to get past the guilt and sentamental items issues I would appreciate it.

  • Tina

    If your guilt is really a huge issue, you could consider therapy. I am serious. I am bipolar and obsessive compulsive, but I only needed therapy to get past being abused as a child. The proper medicine keeps me from the family curse of hoarding and going on crazy spending sprees. I was always able to work and never got into debt. I only keep a few pieces of old china I use or I think is pretty. I gave all the rest away. Ikea, Kmart, WalMart, all sell useful china or you can go to Goodwill or a rummage sale.

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  • Tina

    Getting rid of unnecessary clutter and junk is always wonderful. I fill a big bag, give it away and fill another one or two. My grandsons are 10 and 7 and I was going to give away a lot of toys but I kept 3 dinosaurs. Today a 5 year old came over and had a great time with the dinosaurs. I still keep a few small cars and some crayons in case someone comes over. They are in a small box.

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