Real Life Minimalists: Christopher

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 Christopher, who explains how his childhood experiences inspired him to pursue a simpler, more minimalist life.

Christopher writes:

I was raised in a family where every square inch of every home I ever lived in as a child was used to its maximum potential. It wasn’t cluttered; it was organized, but boy was it ever filled! You had to squeeze around the garage to get out of the cars. Food and supplies were stored around all walls of the garage. There was a whole drawer dedicated to “wire”, cookie jars filled with breath mints, racks 3 deep times 5 wide with laundry detergent, an unplugged refrigerator that stored nuts, a freezer with “seal-a-meal” planned-overs, and tupperware bowls of soup and frozen bread. Growing up, some friends thought we were preparing for the apocalypse. I didn’t know life could be different. My parents had parents of the great depression, and while they didn’t keep busted up rusted out hardware and bent nails to straighten up one day like their folks did, they did jump into the big box store mentality of buy in bulk, bigger is better, and more is safer.

But when I moved away to college I learned life could be simpler. Having one of an item and fully using it up; and going out mindfully to replace it meant a lot to me. Having a refrigerator where at the end of the week I could wipe it down because I saw the back of it, made me smile. Being able to move from my rented apartment and pack all of my belongings in one car made me happy beyond belief. Of course along the way I collected more and more things.

Nonetheless, when I set out to own my own home and create my own life, I was mindful of having drawers where I knew what the contents were inside. And I didn’t have to press hard on the contents to close them. Closets in the guest room that didn’t have my own seasonal outfits in them, but instead just two pillows and a blanket, and ten empty hangers. A key ring that has three keys on it, all of which I use every day. I learned to cherish the space between things rather than the things themselves. I’ve been happier for it. I did marry someone closer to my parents then myself in this regard. It brought a smile to my face when I saw a box recently labeled “junk drawer” and opened it to find a time capsule of items from my wife’s junk drawer 3 moves and 12 years ago. Items she hasn’t needed for over a decade; still following us like a dust bunny.


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15 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Christopher

  • Kathryn Fenner

    Christopher, you got me thinking about Karim Rashid’s query: would you rather have the thing or the space it occupies. I have been reading a book about architecture, and one of the principles is that space without things is as important as the walls and roof to a well-designed building. I want me one of those guest-room closets with only bedding and hangers!

  • Jacqueline

    I liked reading your story, Christopher. I think it’s interesting how our childhoods influence our feelings about “stuff,” and wonder how many people here grew up in cluttered vs. spare households.

  • nicole 86

    I love : “I learned to cherish the space between things rather than the things themselves. ”

    I will look my closet with different eyes.

  • TJ

    I agree, it’s great to be able to move all your possessions in your car — hoping to keep my stuff to that level.

  • touroxin

    Sometimes I wish we had a forum on this site so we could build a community and post pictures. But then again being a minimalist … :-)

  • “I learned to cherish the space between things rather than the things themselves”

    Even visualizing the space I feel calm and at ease which is direct opposition to the suffocation I feel with too much clutter around me.

  • Great post Christopher. I too grew up in an ‘organized’ house full of stockpiled items (45 boxes of laundry det, etc) but my mother was a savings fanatic (saving money that is) when she found an awesome deal she would wipe the store out. And she could tell a story behind each and every item she had acquired. She did do a great job of shopping.

    I like your analogies from later on in life. Sounds like you have your head on straight and know how to appreciate ‘the little things in life’.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Christopher, your story reminds me of my grandmother. Every Wednesday, senior savings day at all the local supermarkets, she goes from one supermarket to the next buying all the specials whether she needs it or not. Some of it she gives to my mom or she stores it in all these cabinets she has lined up in her garage and storeroom. There are three shelves in her storeroom that are full of jars that are full of nails she has found and “plans on” using again someday.

  • Isn’t that the funny thing when we merge with another person who is either a clutterer or not? I was the packrat in our relationship, and I can completely identify with your wife’s “junk drawer” box from 12 years ago. We’ve recently sold about 90% of our possessions, including our house, in order to travel the world. I could have NEVER done this a few years ago, and it took time to break me of those packrat tendencies.

    Even now I find myself holding on to habits and activities that no longer serve me – maybe because I don’t have any possessions to do that with anymore? You’ve given me food for thought on this. I’m going to start looking for the space between. Thank you.

  • I just came across this website while searching for the term minimalist on Google. I see a lot of great, useful and enthusiastic posts here and I am glad to be here :-)
    I am the co-founder of a service that I hope you find useful. is a free service you you can connect to the people in your life and share physical goods with them. You can sell/buy, rent/exchange, borrow/lend, give away within your trusted community.

    I hope you find it useful!

  • Tina

    I worked with a woman whose husband stockpiled things like coffee and sugar. She had to pay to move all his stockpiles when he died and she wanted to downsize. I’ve been married 40 plus years and 2 of most things and maybe 6 of another are the most you need. There will always be another sale.

  • Tina

    I love rummage sales and thrift shops. Friends tell me what they are looking for and then I try to find the items. I don’t need much but I look for pewter for 1 person, certain books for another. Cel phones help because I don’t get the wrong thing. I seldom buy anything new but I love to look.

  • Tina

    My friend has a 2 car garage and a basement full of stuff. Electrical cords, old plastic silverware, mismatched buttons, plastic planters, empty margarine tubs, etc, etc. Her son and I have begged her to recycle or give things away but she wants to sell them at garage sales. She also has clothes that are over 10 years old and never worn in all that time, just hanging around because she thinks someone will buy them. When I visit, I go home and fill another bag for Goodwill. Old mismatched nuts and bolts probably could go to a metal recycler to be sold by the pound.

  • Tina

    My mother used to fill our house with stuff. If one was enough, 6 were better. And nothing could be thrown out. Empty bottles, old ribbon, newspapers, used gift wrap, all had to be saved. When she had a condo of her own, she saved plastic silverware, medicine bottles, used tea bags, and tiny packets of everything.

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