Real Life Minimalists: Katy

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)!

Katy writes:



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.

{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.}

20 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Katy

  • Francine,

    So glad your back, hope you had a phenomenal digital sabbatical! Great real minimalist story! Have a great week!

  • Welcome back Francine! And thanks for featuring me. All the best in the New Year!

  • Katy, How lucky you’ve been to have so many interesting experiences! Being able to take off and visit 14 countries in one go is something most people don’t ever get the chance to do!

    Congratulations on your new minimalist lifestyle. It sounds like it’s going to be another grand adventure for you. Getting rid of my stuff has made a huge difference in my life in terms of freedom and I know it will for you too.

    I’m off to check out your blog now. Thanks Francine for posting Katy’s story!


  • I loved this story! I understood where Katy was coming from as I had a period of time in college where I was trying to “keep up with the Joneses” and found it completely un-fulfilling. Congratulations on your new lifestyle! :o)

  • ElizMc

    This struck me as a very practical story and possibly a more common way that people happen upon and adopt a minimalist lifestyle. It always seems that after an episode of honest self-reflection that minimalism coupled with integrity and a reassessment of values results in a most satisfying, sometimes subtle, life change. Thank you for sharing your story – good luck in your job seach.

  • Gil

    Very inspirational, Katy. Thanks for sharing!

  • Great story Katy, you’ve really embraced the minimalist lifestyle. There’s nothing better than being location independent! Will look forward to following your journey, feel free to stop in at


  • I like Katy’s story. The contrast between her hotel apartment life (that concierge service sounds nice…) and the no-less-happy life that she’s now living is so interesting and pretty inspirational. Go Katy!

  • Jennifer

    Excellent story, Katy! “Furnished the apartment to suit the building…” Very well put, and so difficult to resist. I struggle with that myself, but it’s new clothes to “match” all the stylish girls in my office. I fight it like crazy, but I’m always amazed at how much it bothers me. Someday soon (hopefully) I’ll grow up and get over it!

  • This is one of my favorite “Real Life Minimalist” posts!

  • An inspiring story of gaining material possessions, but then finding happiness in the getting rid of all those possessions, the realisation that happiness is found in who you are, not what you have.

    I admire you in your realisation of a minimalist life.

  • Great story. I’ve been following Katy’s blog for a month or two and I love reading of all her adventures.

  • Thank you to everyone for all the kind comments! Much appreciated and very heart warming. Miss Minimalist has attracted a very thoughtful group of readers.

  • Tina

    We learn sooner or later that we don’t need stuff in our lives. I travel with a small carry on and a tote. Because I don’t want to be burdened with things I can’t carry myself.
    I’m 65 and I see people with huge suitcases and I wonder how they can manage them.

  • Tina

    We are going on a cruise and again taking one carryon suitcase each and a tote. There will be people with suitcases the size of small boats. The day after we return, I am going away for a week to visit my sister in law who has Alzheimer’s. Again, taking a very small suitcase and a tote. My husband’s sister brings a 29″ suitcase when she travels. It is always so heavy, it takes 2 people to lift it.

  • Tina

    I took plenty of clothes for a week in what was a very small suitcase. 2 pairs of slacks, one dressy, just in case, 5 tops, again, one dressy just in case, a nice cardigan sweater, plenty of underwear. Pajamas. On the plane I wore a T shirt, jeans, and a hooded sweatshirt. I also had room for some craft items I thought we might use. This was a suitcase I could lift into an overhead storage space on an airplane.

  • Tina

    I have been giving away a bag a week for months. Being a minsumer means eating less, having fewer clothes and other possessions, and generally trying to leave a tiny footprint. For my birthday, I asked for movie passes and second hand things. I have a discount card for Goodwill and went to a rummage sale.

  • Tina

    Living with less and less. I have been using the same bottle of shampoo for over 2 years and the same bottle of conditioner even longer. My daughter bought me the bottles as a gift. She bought me shower gel and a tiny bottle takes a month to use up. I put every lotion or shampoo into a 2 oz bottle and see how little I can use. A bar of soap lasts at least a month. I think we have a habit of using too much, too often. Lately, I have been getting 4 meals out of 1 restaurant meal. I used to bring home 1/2 my meal, then 2/3 and now I bring home 3/4. We always have a vegetable at home anyway.

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