Real Life Minimalists: simple in france

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. (I’ve changed the name from Minimalist Spotlight to Real Life Minimalists, as I think it more accurately conveys the spirit of the project.) If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

Today, simple in france reminds us of the importance of how we use our time. I hope you’ll be inspired to learn more, and visit her blog at The Simple Life in France.

simple in france writes:

“If I have to juggle one more thing, it’s all going to come crashing down.” That’s how I felt most of the time during my former life as a teacher in California. I kept waiting for the last little shove that would send me reeling into chaos. Since DH and I started over in California with only a trunk-full of possessions after meeting in France, we didn’t face a cluttered home so much as a cluttered and overburdened schedule.

We collected activities the way some people hoard trinkets and old junk. I worked nearly 70 hours a week. After work, I’d hurry to the gym for an intense spinning class. DH and I kept a rather rigorous social calendar full of dinners out with friends and ski weekends. I drank coffee all day, which only fueled the fire. I eventually became sickly, forgetful, spacey and terminally stressed out. We didn’t know when to stop. If storage facilities existed for an overflow of time-sucking activities, we would have rented one.

Busy, but not stupid, DH and I quickly realized we’d become miserable. We remembered the days when we’d first met back in France when I didn’t have a full time job even and we slept on a pile of blankets on the floor and cooked our food on a single electric range. We didn’t make nearly the money, but we had time to hike the French countryside, travel, sing in a chorus and just sit around chatting and doing nothing. I’m not saying everyone needs to change continents to solve their problems—but we did.

It took some time to unlearn our crazy lifestyle, to stop filling our lives to the breaking point with work, shopping and mindless entertainment. For a while, life felt strange, even frightening. All that spare time spread out in front of us like a void and we stumbled around like two people in a house recently emptied of all its furniture.

Now we see the extra time as a space to breath. DH is still a teacher in France (currently off work after an accident). I am taking my time figuring out my next career step, but without work, I’m able to remove the burden of running the household entirely from DH’s shoulders. After several months with no career, I can safely say I’ve kicked by workaholic ways. Whatever career path I take in France, I know work will not consume my life.

Our needs for entertainment, shopping and vacations have shriveled away to nothing. We don’t have a TV; we don’t go to the movies or out to dinner. We still have a few passions: hiking, biking, spending time with family, cooking good food at home and wine-tasting on occasion—but we know when to stop. With everything we’ve removed from our lives, we’re left with the one luxury you can’t buy back or trade: time.

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20 comments to Real Life Minimalists: simple in france

  • Best wishes in finding your next career! I never want work to consume my life, either, though many people can’t understand my lack of ambition (though I’m plenty ambitious in my personal life!). Minimalism for me, too, is all about time. The best luxury of all.

    Thanks for sharing your story. Every time I hear an experience like yours, my passion for minimalism is renewed.

  • Sunny, I hate the ‘ambition’ trap. I felt a lot of pressure in that area both when I was working a lot and when I tried to cut back! Like you, I consider myself to be very ambitious in many ways . . . but why waste all your ambition on your job?

  • delilah

    Wow, what a fascinating story! I love imagining your simple life in France, and look forward to reading your blog. I’m trying to give up my workaholic ways too, and this is very inspiring.

  • A simple guy

    Thanks for sharing this, its a good reminder that our time is limited just like our space and we shouldn’t fill it up with unimportant things.

  • Michelle

    “…but why waste all your ambition on your job?”
    Truer words were never spoken!
    Thank you for a thought-provoking post.

  • My life was never as crowded as yours because I always recognised I needed time and space for myself. But one great mind clearer for me is recognising that I dont have to chase along to every event I am invited to, or feel I should attend to “keep up” with the latest film, art exhibition, theatre etc. It means that when I do go to cinema, art gallery etc. it is really enjoyable and stays in my memory a lot longer than when I was endlessly chasing around and reading all the reviews. It is all just mind clutter. Thank you, an interesting post and I have enjoyed reading your blog.

  • Joshua

    While I agree with the comment, “why waste all your ambition on your job?”, I believe it can be fundamentally different if your job is not a “job” but your “mission”. Then it doesn’t have to be a waste of time, but accomplishing what you were meant to accomplish.

  • […] in a small French town. Her husband works full-time.  What struck me was her description of her pre-simple life, as a teacher in […]

  • […] there are some interesting ideas on that topic as well!  You’ll find my guest post on the minimalist spotlight […]

  • You really captured how being too busy is the same as having too many belongings. The only time I remember being in a similar situation was when I went to college. I took way over the typical classload and worked three jobs. I’m pleased that I have a degree, but if I could go back in time, I would’ve done college similarly to how I have done the rest of my life, a lot more slow and leisurely.

  • I can definitely relate to your story. It is so easy to get caught up in jam packing our lives till we can barely breathe. I recently donated half of the clothes in my closet in an attempt to live a simpler (easier) life. My husband and I have also attempted to have a day a week when we just do nothing!

  • CJ

    I have no idea how a lot of people pack in all the things that they do. I work full time and do yoga two evenings a week and swim every sunday. After housework and errands I already feel like I don’t have as much down-time as I’d like. I LOVE doing very little. Walking, pottering, reading, just curling up with my cats. I have friends who say they never have any time to just relax, but it always strikes me as so obviously self-imposed. They just choose to do so much. I tend to choose not to!

  • Transitioning minimalist

    I’m currently introducing my life to minimalism. Not sure how far I will go in getting rid of stuff, but I have already emptied several shelves and drawers. I am married with 2 boys and we do not live an extravagant lifestyle or even try to keep up with the Jones’. I am a stay at home/homeschooling mom and we live frugally, but lately I have felt like too much of my time is spent on cleaning and organizing my “STUFF”. I’m just tired of it. I would rather spend more time playing games or riding bikes with my kids. I also recently read a verse from the Bible that says that we should not become burdened with the things of this world because our stay here is only temporary. Truly I have become more attached to my stuff than I should be. So, as I have filled a significant portion of my garage with stuff to be donated and overloaded my trash can and recycle bin, I do feel like I have more breathing room, but I also feel a little nervous because this is NEW to me. My husband is also wondering why the house is starting to look bare (LOL). We are still far from bare but for now I’m enjoying my minimalist-inspired home. I had an enjoyable un-shopping moment today. I have always loved shopping for organizer bins. I made a trip to the superstore for some necessary food items and passed by the sales ads. I stood looking at sale prices for organizer bins and suddenly realized that I didn’t even have a place to use the bin since now I have several empty bins. I walked away feeling about $6 richer feeling victorious.

  • Tina

    I liked the last comment where the lady left the store without the organizer bins. I am purging the top shelves of my closet and came across things I didn’t know I had. I have been retired since 2002, and then worked part time ’til 2 years ago. I try to schedule 1 activity each day. I have lunch with a friend, a volunteer activity, a doctor appointment, just one thing each day.
    I have friends who do a lot of shopping to fill their days UGH!

  • Tina

    Came across a big pile of suitcases someone left out for the garbage in a fancy neighborhood. Wondered why they didn’t give them to Sal Army or Goodwill. Old suitcases are great for linen or clothing storage. They usually fit under the bed,too. Liquor stores have great boxes to use for sorting and giving things away,too.

  • Tina

    We are planning to go on a cruise. I don’t wear skirts or dresses except 1 black dress to formal weddings. I am taking gym shoes to walk around in and black flats. I think dress codes are ridiculous we go on vacations to be comfortable.

  • Tina

    Formal nights on the ship were OK with office casual. No bathing suits, shorts or tank tops, though. We had a wonderful time, saw Barcelona and Pisa, an ice show, comedian and Rolling Stone tribute band. Art auctions, craft classes, and just looking at the art displays on the ship. My husband is already planning another cruise. Maybe Alaska this time.

  • Tina

    For my birthday, I asked for movie passes. My husband and I like to go to the movies a few times a year to see some of the new releases. I also got some second- hand books on crafts. Most of the bookcases are full of my Mom’s romances, since there isn’t enough storage space in the nursing home. I also have a closet full of her summer clothes. Being a minimalist means there is always space to store things for someone else if I need to.

  • I gave away some shirts and DH did,too. I am trying to find more to give away each day. There is still plenty that can go. Relatives come and tell me we need more hand towels and other bathroom decor items.

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