Real Life Minimalists: Matt Madeiro

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 until February — but if you don’t mind waiting, feel free to send me your submission!)

Today, we meet Matt Madeiro, who was led to minimalism by somewhat unusual circumstances. To find out how simpler living fits into his overall self-improvement plan, surf on over to his blog, Three New Leaves.

Matt writes:

I wish I’d come into minimalism on my own accord. I could have approached it gently, selling things at a slower, more satisfying pace. Yeah. That would have been nice.

But here’s what happened instead: I got robbed.

So minimalism, for me, kicked in during my last semester of college. I came home from class one evening and found my roommate’s shiny new computer monitor sitting by the front door. I thought, for a moment, that he’d decided to move out (huzzah!), but a curious look into my own room destroyed that notion pretty quickly.

My room was a mess. Honestly, it looked like a tornado had swept through, picking up all the clutter and crap and flinging it against the walls. I couldn’t even see the floor beneath all the papers and folders, but I could see this: my monitor was missing, and so was the towering stack of games by my nightstand.

I realized, then, two very important things: that I’d just been robbed, but also that I had way too much stuff. My room was closest to the front door, but it’s no wonder that I got off easy compared to my roommates. How could someone steal anything when I had so much crap covering the floor?

Before that night, I’d lived like so many others in a constant circle of buy, buy, buy. I bought games and movies and toys and stuff by the dozen, hoarding it in a growing mess of boxes at the top of my closet. Sure, I didn’t always use that stuff, but what about that one possible time in the future where I might maybe need them?

It’s a hard mentality to break. I thought I needed those things, back then, and sometimes I still do. But that night — scary as it was — really opened my eyes to a different truth: I don’t need things. My life went on just fine without them, and I’d say it even went a whole heck of a lot happier once I spent the next few weeks selling/donating most of my remaining stuff.

After all, I still have my friends and my family. I still have my health, too, and I’m finding that I have so much more time now for all three of them. Funny what happens when you’re not constantly organizing and cleaning the endless mess, right?

Is it weird to say that getting robbed was one of the best things that has ever happened to me?


I’m a writer/traveler/dork currently blogging about self-improvement over at Three New Leaves. Minimalism is a big part of who I am, now, but I’ve made big changes in other parts of my life, too, and like to write very enthusiastically about what I’ve learned. Who knows? Maybe you’ll pick up a few tips too! :)

{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: Deirdre
  2. Real Life Minimalists: This Tiny Asteroid
  3. Real Life Minimalists: Aspiring Minimalist

18 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Matt Madeiro

  • Such an interesting story. I love the way you took a horrible moment in your life and completely turned it around into a positive thing. It’s probably not only a story about how minimalism helps our lives, but also the way our own outlook on life changes how we feel. You could have been very negative about what happened and ultimately it would have got you nowhere.

    I can only imagine the look on peoples faces if you ever told them the best thing that happened in your life was being robbed ;).

    • Hey, Peter!

      Oh, trust me: the first day or two after the robbery, nothing but negativity darkened my door. :) It didn’t last long, though, when I went through the process of selling all that stuff. I liken it to a dirty window. Before that night, my life had been like four glass planes so covered in muck that you couldn’t look through them. As I sold my crap, though, sunlight started peaking through, and the clarity that offered was all I needed to look at the experience as a positive one.

      Practically speaking, though, I still get weird looks when I talk about the robbery so positively. ;)

  • [...] na blogu Miss Minimalist historia Matta, po naszemu Mateusza. Nie planował być minimalistą. Ale musiał. Bo włamano się do jego pokoju [...]

  • tom

    “I don’t need things. My life went on just fine without them”

    ^^ that says it all right there, doesn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing your story Matt.

  • what could have been only a horrible experience became a valuable life lesson. impressive!

  • dianon

    made me think of a friend who had her apt robbed many years ago. she replaced all those items, only to be robbed again the next week!

  • Wow, this is a very unusual way to become a minimalist! But good for you that you did not dwell on loss for long. Your story remind me of Francine’s “Nothing to Steal.”

    • The similarity is uncanny! But it’s great, I think, that two different people can experience something so terrible and emerge so much stronger for it.

      It’s still not something I would wish on anyone, but I can safely say that I’m glad to have experienced it. Something tells me Francine might agree. :)

      Thanks for reading!

  • Heather

    Glad things worked out for the best. I had something similiar happen to me..except it involved a fire and smoke filled rooms that destroyed or ruined beyond repair, most everything I owned. It is sometimes hard to see beyond that moment of oh my gosh, why…Glad you are enjoying your glass half full. : ) Great story and inspiration. : )

  • Interesting story. Rough introduction, but I guess it’s like learning to swim by jumping in. I’m glad you came through it so well. I started out living on a sailboat with no place for unnecessary stuff. But that was my choice and I embraced it. Then thngs changed. Now they’re changing back, but slowly. Much more slowly that your sudden conversion. Thanks for sharing!

  • Nice way to spin around an otherwise not-so-fun moment in your life, Matt! It always amazes me how people become minimalists (with or without additional “help”). Every person’s story is unique and embraces challenges along the way. Way to go!

  • I love it! I am so happy that there seems to be a movement in our country towards minimalism. I think we will all be happier for it. Good for you Matt for making a shift to improve the quality of your life!!!

  • It truly is a surprising way to get into minimalism. When our house got robbed all that i thought about was the things there were missing, the huge amount of what was left only appeared to me years after I mostly forgot this experience…

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