Real Life Minimalists: Jennifer

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. (Note: the schedule is now full through mid-December — but if you don’t mind waiting, feel free to send me your submission!)

This week, I’m happy to bring you Jennifer’s story. She tells us what inspired her minimalist journey, where she is now, and what she’s working on for the future.

Jennifer writes:

A few years ago, I got my heart broken, and in those first few awful days following the break-up, I was in deep DEEP denial. I figured that this little bump in the road would soon be behind us, and we’d probably end up moving in together and getting married eventually, so I’d better clean out that storage unit since I wouldn’t want to move it all to his place (oh Jennifer, you poor dumb thing). In a frenzied effort to avoid thinking about reality, I finally sorted through fifteen boxes that over the course of ten years I had moved from storage unit to storage unit without ever opening. It felt so good to get rid of all that junk – I actually felt lighter. I followed the storage unit with getting rid of clothes I hadn’t worn in years, books I’d never read again, pieces of hand-me-down furniture I didn’t like, and the more I cleared out, the more I realized that I loved having empty space. It shocks me now to think of how cluttered and jam-packed I was in that tiny apartment.

Over the years an appreciation for open space and minimalism has seeped into almost all other areas of my life: I pared my wardrobe down to the most basic essentials and love not stressing out about what to wear each day. I don’t buy a lot of food that ends up in the garbage. I don’t buy or store seasonal decorations for the house because I don’t like clutter of any kind. I love coming home to a calm, peaceful, airy open space and knowing exactly what I have and exactly where everything is (vs. years of assuming it must be in a box, somewhere…).

It’s a process though. I still have things that are proving difficult to get rid of – things I bought for the traditional life I wished to have, and letting go of those things (which I know are just representations of old dreams) is harder than I thought it would be, but I’m still working on it and I’ll get there!

{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.}

15 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Jennifer

  • It looks like you turned a negative situation into a positive one. Although you had your heart broken you also found something that changed your life.

    I know the feeling you get from getting rid of things. My family are terrible for keeping everything. When I moved out of home I tried to leave as much as possible behind. Of course I still feel there is too much but it’s getting less (we really don’t have many things though). Whenever we think we’re going to live a certain way and buy whatever may be needed, so often our minds change, then we sell everything as soon as possible. We’re getting far far more careful over what we purchase.

    I think minimalism really does change the way we live and think about everything.

  • Jenny

    Excellent story, Jennifer, it is hard to get rid of things sometimes but if they are connected to a lifestyle you don’t live then removing them would probably feel wonderful, I always like to get rid of anything that has a bad memory connected to it or anything that was part of a lifestyle I used to live or thought I would live but actually don’t. Alot of people would be surprised how little they actually use/need in their lives, it seems like you have a good handle on this though. Its awesome that you were able to get control of the storage unit before it got control of you, a friend of mine had a similar storage unit issue so I know exactly what that is like. I hope you have a wonderful day, thanks for sharing your story!

  • Diane

    Great post! “…knowing exactly what I have and exactly where everything is”–that was my goal a few years ago when I did a huge de-cluttering. It’s wonderful, isn’t it? My older son who is on his own was looking for something and he was sure he had not taken it when he moved out, and was positive ‘it must be in a box somewhere in your house’–which made me laugh–look around, there ARE no boxes of things anywhere!

  • dianon

    My best friend from China, who is a Feng Shui practitioner has taught me the wisdom of letting things go that don’t make me happy. I often find myself asking if an item will make me happier or whole-more often than not-no.
    Additionally it’s easy to get rid of things that don’t have good feelings behind them. Ask your self if you really want all that negative energy in your home and life.
    And Jennifer, I’m a true believer in Karma and things happening for a reason. In the big picture it will all be good.

  • Julia

    I love Jennifer’s story and can identify with having a terrible situation trigger a phase of clearing out. When I lost my mother in July, the only thing that helped with the pain was decluttering. I think it was because my mother’s last years were so burdened by her possessions and the agony it caused her to let them go. I really felt it helped me to let go of things and prepare for my life without her by learning from her experience. Further to what others have said, I’m learning to let go of ANYTHING which calls up sad memories. Life is too short to be constantly reminded of sad things I can do nothing about.

  • Gil

    Thank you, Jennifer. Very inspirational.

  • Just found this site today … via the magic of Twitter somehow.

    Great site, I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Jennifer’s story is Inspiring … I am focusing on learning that less really is more.

  • Thank you for sharing your inspiring story Jennifer! I can also relate. I love how you describe coming home to a “calm, peaceful, airy open space”.

  • […] Miss Minimalist – Real life minimalists – Jennifer […]

  • “I don’t buy a lot of food that ends up in the garbage. I don’t buy or store seasonal decorations for the house because I don’t like clutter of any kind. I love coming home to a calm, peaceful, airy open space and knowing exactly what I have and exactly where everything is”

    I’m the same way. I don’t like wasting food and I can’t stand the thought of having to store holiday decorations of any kind. I don’t mind looking at others holiday decorations, but I don’t want any for myself. I would rather enjoy their hard work and “artistic sensibilities” than be forced to exercise mine. I concur as to loving open space. It really is more calm and peaceful. It gives me a serene feeling of knowing that I am in control of my environment.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Tina

    I used to decorate for holidays when my kids were little. Not very much but a little. These last few years all I’ve done is put a centerpiece of some kind on the dining room table. We usually go to my son’s house or a cousin’s. It eliminates a few boxes of things when I don’t have to decorate. Reading all the postings makes me give away more craft items.

  • Tina

    I tried to get some old newspapers away from my mother. Sure enough, she said she needed them. She gave me 3 empty plastic bags so I guess that’s something.

  • Tina

    My mom, a hoarder, died recently. Sure enough, even though she had very little space in the nursing home, we filled 18 bags with her stuff. She never met a piece of paper or plastic she didn’t save. I kept 2 shirts. My daughter wants 3 shirts, her nightgowns have a taker and the books are going to her friends. All the newspapers and magazines were recycled. The rest of her clothes were given away.

  • Amina

    I’m so sorry for your loss Tina. You have a wonderful approach to decluttering and minimalist living. Thank you Jennifer for sharing your story.

  • Tina

    Thanks, Amina. I have a pair of ashtrays from my dad. My folks never smoked but everyone had ashtrays when I was growing up. I have a bracelet from my mom. I gave my sister and brother some tchotkes they wanted. My niece has some pins. My nephews have dishes and candlesticks. My older son has a certificate my dad got when he crossed the equator. He has it hung in his bathroom. A museum wants some of my Mom’s oldest papers. My son took pictures of them. I am giving away at least 75 plants, dishes and hobby materials when I teach an indoor gardening class later this week. I continue to try to live with less.

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