Real Life Minimalists: Nina Yau

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 present this story from Nina Yau — I think you’ll find it quite inspirational! If you’d like to read more of her thoughts on minimalism, positivity, and realizing your dreams, please visit her blog, Castles in the Air.

Nina writes:

Nina Yau

Nina Yau

In the summer of 2008, I felt the need to start ridding myself of my huge mound of DVDs, CDs, books, and college textbooks that I no longer watched, listened to, or read. It didn’t appeal to me anymore, where once it had given me a hobby of spending and collecting. Ooh, a special 2-disc 20th anniversary collector’s edition in a pretty case? I had to have that! If I get that, my collection would be complete. Until the next eye-candy came along.

This cycle of consumerism had to stop. I had to do something drastic.

So I sold it all on Amazon. Every last movie, music album, and book. Not only did I feel a physical weight being lifted off of me, I cleared out my closet and filled my wallet with some extra cash. I’ve made hundreds of dollars by re-selling all of my used items online. That summer alone, I made $500. I sold other items periodically throughout the year and have made over $1,000 in all.

These items were literally sitting in my closet as cash waiting to come back to me. All I had to do was free it. In freeing my items, I also freed myself from the cycle of spending and collecting things.

From there, it snowballed.

I examined my clothes and gave it a hard, close look. What do I actually wear? As opposed to what I think I will wear but will never put on ever again? What is too small/big/tight/loose/outdated/trendy on me? What still has its price tag on? What have I only worn once, never to be worn again?

These were some of the questions I asked myself and I demanded an honest answer as a result.

The answer was I did not need even 3/4 of the clothes I owned because:

1. I didn’t wear it.
2. It was no longer useful and essential to me.
3. It was too small/big/tight/loose/outdated/trendy on me and did not fit my body nor my sense of style.
4. I no longer cared for or liked it anymore.

What did I do with all these unwanted clothes? I did 1 of 3 things:

1. Donated it to the local shelter or clothing drop box.
2. Passed it along to younger cousins or friends who wanted the clothes.
3. Trashed it if it was extremely worn out and old.

Furniture was next. I sold it or gave it all away.

On Craigslist, I sold my bookcase, coffee table, dining table and chairs, and futon. My desk and chair I gave to my little brother.

I thought I had needed all this when I moved into my apartment in 2007. It was the buyer’s mentality. Oh, I’m moving out on my own, therefore, I need these things. It was automatic behavior for me and I didn’t realize that I don’t need it when I didn’t even use it. Duh!

Papers, files, folders, photos, and documents were next on my hit list. Needless to say, I was on a roll after getting rid of so much stuff. I did not show any mercy in this category.

What I didn’t need anymore, I recycled or shredded. What I did need (but didn’t necessitate a paper copy), I scanned, and then shredded. If it was an original document that I had to keep a paper copy of (e.g., title of my car, passport, birth certificate), then I kept that in a small portfolio of important documents. Photos, I eliminated all paper photos that I had mindlessly printed over the years. I kept them electronically on my computer instead, deleting duplicate photos and photos that I no longer wanted to see (e.g., old photos of friends and boyfriends no more).

I used to be sentimental. Now, not so much. I no longer have emotional attachment to objects. I prefer to reserve that energy, time, attention, and love to people instead. This does not mean I am a cold, harsh, unloving individual incapable of appreciating all that we have, including the material things. Like writing in my nice Moleskine journal.

The difference is knowing where your happiness lies. Is it with things or is it with people and experiences? I choose the latter.

The minimalist life isn’t for everyone. But it is for me.


My name is Nina Yau and I’m a minimalist who owns less than 100 things. Loving life, not loving stuff!

My blog is called Castles in the Air, where I blog about changing the way we think through minimalism.

{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: A Working Rachel
  2. Real Life Minimalists: Jenna Ann
  3. Real Life Minimalists: Jesse

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