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 March — but if you don’t mind waiting, feel free to send me your submission!)
Today we hear from Katy (who happens to be the twin sister of Rachel, who was profiled last month). She tells us why she’s decided to embrace a minimalist lifestyle, and how it’s changed her outlook on life. I think you’ll find her story quite inspiring (be sure to check out her blog)!
Growing up in a very wealthy neighbourhood in a family that wasn’t very wealthy, I spent a lot of time at a young age thinking about stuff. How I wanted it, needed it and thought it would make me happier. I remember visiting friend’s homes around Christmas time and being in awe of the amount of presents under the tree. My mom worked really hard to make Christmas spectacular but as a single parent with six children she couldn’t compete with our wealthy neighbours and it is with my embarrassed adult eyes I now remember the Christmases of my youth. That used mountain bike was a stretch to afford but all I could see was that it was used. Ouch. Luckily my mother is a forgiving person.
It wasn’t until University that I got my chance to really start collecting stuff and being a consumer. Trips to outlet malls, weekends spent roaming Banana Republic and the Gap were fitted around my days of rowing and school. The trend continued through my 20s. As I tried, and failed to make it to the Olympic Games, I moved my stuff back and forth across the country between the national team training centres a couple of times a year. I had five large plastic bins and a couple of suitcases, along with the vital drying rack (rowers go through a lot of clothes). More stuff was stored at my mom’s.
When I was done with rowing all I wanted to do was live somewhere with bookshelves so I could finally unpack. I landed an entry level job working on the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in January of 2005. I found an apartment and set up some bookshelves. My basement suite studio was upgraded to a one bedroom as soon as I received a promotion. The next promotion I got a car. The next promotion I moved into a luxurious one bedroom apartment downtown that was in a hotel and had 24/7 concierge service. Then I furnished the apartment to suit the building I was living in. I went all out with a big screen television, nice couches and my first real bed with a headboard and frame. My new place came with a den AND a in-suite storage. After a year and a half living there the storage was crammed full to the point where I had a second dresser in there.
March of this year, after five years working on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, I packed up all my belongs, put them in storage and went traveling for over three months. At some points I was itching to get home, get a job, and unpack all of my stuff somewhere. I was literally day dreaming of a new apartment and the coffee table that would go perfectly with my two couches as I trekked to Everest base camp on my 18 countries in 14 weeks whirlwind trip.
But I didn’t find a job the minute I got home from travelling. So I camped out at my sister’s. Literally. Sleeping on a camping mattress on the floor with a small amount of my possessions stuffed into a corner and sharing closet space with my year old nephew. I started reading about minimalism in between sending off resumes. Blogs like Miss Minimalist offered a refreshing and easy outlook on life; only have what you need. Suddenly the itch was to get rid of my possessions rather than find a new home for them. So I took bags of clothing and shoes to the Salvation Army. I’m slowly decluttering/recycling/donating/selling most of what I have in storage.
The result: today I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and I’m still sleeping on the floor. There are so many doors open now that I don’t want to own items I don’t need. I can move easily, I don’t need as much money to support my lifestyle so I can wait and find a job I’m passionate about rather than focusing on the paycheck. For someone unemployed, with no home of their own, I’m remarkably relaxed. If only I could have embraced this as a youth I think my mother would have had so much less stress.
I’m writing about decluttering my life, my friends lives, finding a job and traveling the world at The Single Supplement.