Real Life Minimalists: Graduate

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.

I was delighted to receive the following story from Graduate, and think it’s wonderful that she’s decided to pursue a minimalist lifestyle at such a young age.

Graduate writes:

I grew up in a pack-rat household, bordering on hoarding. We literally had four rooms in my house that were filled floor-to-ceiling with items still in their plastic shopping bags (thanks to my mother’s hobby of trying to own everything in the whole wide world). I was uneasy and always stressed growing up, not understanding how anyone would want to be surrounded by so many things or spending so much of their money on things they did not even value.

When I went off to college, my parents encouraged me to purchase every possible item I would ever need for my new apartment. In my own new space I was drowned out by things I did not want, but felt told were essential to “growing up” and “being an adult”.

It took me a year to realize that “growing up” and “being an adult” were the exact opposite of beginning my own attempt to purchase the entire universe. The way I saw it, to be an adult means to not care what others think of your choices, to own and value exactly what you want, and to stop trying to compete with what your peers had (I tried that in high school, it was nothing but miserable!).

It has been quite the journey in the past three years: I have given away over 70% of my things and never looked back. I am constantly trimming down my belongings even more. I have found that my interests, friends, and hobbies have changed because of it (and I feel for the better!). I no longer go to the mall to buy things with people I do not really feel are true friends…I go on a walk with a real friend and truly listen to her now. I have found friends that value me for the person I am, and not what I own.

I am not a survivalist minimalist, but one that weeds out everything but the essential. I truly feel more alive and more happiness than I ever thought was possible before. When people come to my home they are shocked at how little I own (and how little attachment I have to the few things I still own).

At 18, I had no idea that there was a word for this lifestyle; all I knew was that it was the right thing for me. At 23, I can barely remember the year I was “an adult” and look forward to so many more years of being me; having and doing the things in my life that make me happy. I have gained so much more than I have seemingly “lost”…a sense of self, personal and financial freedom, and confidence in bowing out of the competition.

I want to thank Miss Minimalist and everyone else who contributes to the blog. It is because of all of you that I have found endless inspiration, but more importantly, endless sense of belonging in this lifestyle.

{If you’d like to read more about minimalist living, please consider buying my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Related posts:

  1. Real Life Minimalists: Sherry Ott
  2. Real Life Minimalists: Sarah
  3. Real Life Minimalists: Sunny

9 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Graduate

  • what a wonderful story. it sounds like you are living life on your terms and what could be better than that. to get this at such a young age is so amazing too. you sound like a true free spirit. thank you for sharing your story.

    ~janet

  • JLouise

    Graduate, I can relate to the “shock” some people seem to feel when confronted with my home of few possessions but I think their discomfort with my lack of attachment, as you mentioned, is even greater.

    While the minimalist life has always appealed to me I must admit in my younger days (yes, those days long ago before computers, let alone the web) I really never heard of or saw anyone else designing their life without a lot of material objects being collected along the way. Somehow it wasn’t being an “adult” unless you had a couch, a full set of cookware or a chest of drawers and while I resisted many of these things (I never have had a chest of drawers) I did go along with some of them. Over the last several years I’ve been really steadfast in my pursuit to let go of so many unnecessary material objects and it has been a pleasure to have found several excellent blogs (like this one!) to know there are others in the world with the same interests and ideas. It’s nice to know there are people who “get it” and would share my delight of a completely empty room or a closet with only one coat hanging in it instead of wrinkling up their noses in confusion or disapproval.

    Thanks for your posting!

  • Graduate, your words were almost like looking-errr,reading– into a mirror! I’m 23 too and I can really relate to your path. I think it’s cool how you knew what felt right to you and decided to just go about following your own desires instead of giving in to how some people might have wanted you to be. Giving away 70% of your things couldn’t have been easy but you still managed to do it anyway and you’re reaping the results. I think that’s a really cool story. If you get a chance to read this, I am wondering if you have had any of your friends or family becoming interested in a minimalist lifestyle through your example?

  • Hi Graduate. If your mom has stuff “floor to ceiling” in 4 rooms, I’d classify that as a hoarder. I do appliance/ac work and last week, 3 different homes, they all had way too much stuff and one was definitely a hoarder.

    When I walked in, I said, “Wow, I see your kind of house on TV”. I guess she really wanted her AC fixed, because she didn’t slap me.

    My friend always comments how I get rid of things. As the years have gone by, he now says how it’s really a good habit. He used to chide me that I would not finish my drink.

    Sometimes I get rid of something that I need again. I do make mistakes. I just go out and buy it again. I would love to hear stories of people who have storage rentals, how much they cost and how it stores nothing but junk. I’ll bet there are people who’ve been paying storage rental fees for years on what is nothing but junk. It would be interesting to hear from those who own storage sites.

  • Ana London

    Dear Graduate,
    lovely post… I was no way as near as minimalist at 23 as I am now at 36… I just had less because I was poor!!

    I still struggle at times in social situations.. I think most people think I am either strange or poor because I dont have a TV or sleep on the floor… Sometimes it bothers me and others it doesnt….

    Like Mike… I sometimes make mistakes..have a mad purging weekend…later need to replace something after a few months! I purge less nowadays becuase I buy less… its soo liberating and the housework is a doddle!!

    Again also..its great to find a site and like minded people… Im not a blogger, dont do facebook/twitter or any other social network… but missminimalist is the only one I get some genuine identification from.

    Cheers to you all !!

    Ana London

  • Graduate

    Thank you for all of the lovely replies!

    @thegardnerscotage: I think that I am less of a free spirit that I am just plain not willing to be miserable on someone else’s terms. Many days I feel I seem crazy to others when I honestly insist I do not want to go to an outlet mall with my friends!

    @JLouise: THank you for your comment! I am glad I am not alone in the comfort I have found in other’s stories like mine. Congrats to continue the fight against owning for the sake of having a “complete” or “mature” house!

    @Reggie: Thank you for such a thoughtful question. There are many people in my life that at first thought I was insane, but then slowly have started along my way of thinking. Many people have asked me to help them eliminate their clutter, even more people invite themselves over (probably a vacation from their overstuffed apartments!)…it is amazing how others are drawn to it, even if they do not realize it. Most surprisingly, the people in my life that share my philosophy I have become extremely close to…people that would rather bake cookies together than exchange holiday gifts, for example. So in short, yes there have been many people who are interested in minimalism in varying degrees (mostly because they can feel the energy and the freedom it allows me), but at the same time, there are many people I have met that share minimalism and I find them to be equally as comforting in this journey.

    @Mike Crosby: My mother had to have the electric fixed in her home, and he had to enter roomS where things were packed…I was embarrassed for my mother and apologetic to the man. My mother has never used a storage unit, but I know of people that have them, and I am willing to chance that they are full of junk as you say. I would love to know as well how much it has costed them over the years, as well as how many of the items they could even remember where in there! Maybe they should only keep those items…but only if they are still useful in their current lifestyle! Thanks for your ideas!

    @Ana London: I unfortuantely “had” because my parents were very generous and could always afford whatever was wanted and needed. It was both a blessing and a curse, because I did not learn until I left for college that just because you COULD buy it does not mean you HAVE to. Do not be so tough about needing to re-buy an item! I would rather purge 1000 items and need to re-buy 4 than to keep the 1000 “just in case”! As for social situations, I agree that that is much more challenging in the moment. I have learned that when people comment that I do not own a TV, I simply say “I enjoy seeing people and places instead of a TV”, or when they comment I sleep on the floor I will say, “I feel I sleep better that way”. I have found that as long as you say a simple statement with no judgement towards them, people are more accepting of my choices…especially because when I have something to say in reply, they feel I have thought it through and arrived and a decision, instead of being forced because of poverty or any other reason. Please let me know how your interactions with others go, I am very excited to hear about it and trade ideas!

  • Gil

    Graduate,

    Very inspirational story indeed. I will say my own journey has not oly entailed paring down my possessions to a huge degree, but I have noticed some personal changes as well. I’m more relaxed and less focused on things.

  • @Graduate reply — Thank you for the reply. I’m genuinely happy to see that you have found fellow link-minded people who appreciate your lifestyle. That’s not always so easy to find but it sounds like the change you made is working out for the best. Really glad to read that.

  • Wow! I was so impressed by your post, Graduate. What a great thing to have such wisdom and perspective already at your age.

    My own mother is a compulsive shopper/hoarder as well so I can relate to your emotions! It’s a relief, isn’t it, to realize you don’t have to own a big house full of junk to be an “adult!”

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