Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words (click here for details).
I think you’ll find today’s story from Kris very inspirational! She tells us how she’s pursuing a new career in human rights—and how minimalism helped make it happen. Please visit her blog, Saying Yes, to learn more.
Hi! I’m Kris and I’ve been slowly minimizing for about five years now, and I made the biggest leap this summer.
Five years ago I was a frustrated lower-level marketing account manager for extended warranties. Today I’m a 39-year-old first year Ph.D. student studying solutions in human trafficking and modern-day slavery. The bug to make this change began when I first learned about these issues five years ago through contact with International Justice Mission. I’d been frustrated for 13 years with trying to claw my way up to middle management and yet still feeling empty. At the time I also had deep credit card debt, a car payment and had just taken on a mortgage. But on becoming aware of this systemic oppression and violent exploitation of the vulnerable in our world, I knew I was supposed to make a big change. I didn’t know how, or to what, but I was going to do it. It was going to happen.
I started by making a financial plan that included renting out the second bedroom in my new condo and aggressively paying off all the non-mortgage debt. While doing that, I prepared for the LSAT and GRE and investigated grad schools because my business career was not enough to break into work with a human rights NGO. I also began shedding my stuff. My debt was paid off in 14 months, after which I built up some savings to prepare me for leaving full-time work during what turned out to be the start of the recession, and I started my MPA at the local state university in 2009. I had made decisions from fear for 35 years, and I decided that this time nothing was going to stop me. I wasn’t going to let the coming of this economic transformation deter me. I’d had enough of having my dreams deterred. It was time now for faith.
During my master’s program I continued to shed possessions. I was a regular at the Good Will donation site, and also sold and gave things away. I was frustrated with still having to keep my car and mortgage and the worries associated with them until after graduation – but during grad school I’d also made my way to Nepal for a human rights volunteer stint and had a marvelous internship with International Justice Mission. Those experiences showed me that I need better research skills for the policy work I was getting into so I began looking at PhD programs. I got accepted to my dream program (miraculously) in April, in a city 800 miles from where I was living, so then I had to start planning how I was going to get rid of the condo and car for the move. After over four years of gradually moving to minimalism, I was prepared to really take the plunge this past May.
This summer I got rid of about 85 percent of what was left of my stuff. I sold my car. This week I finally closed on the sale of my condo. I now live in a little furnished studio apartment within walking distance of everything I need, and I use my trusty metro card to get around outside the neighborhood the few times I don’t choose walking. All of my belongings now fit in the back of an SUV. And I don’t miss any of that crap.
I can now focus on my spiritual life and my human rights work. By the time I finish my four years here, I’ll be able to fit my life in a couple of duffle bags and go wherever the work takes me. This would have been impossible without minimalism.
I am no longer owned by my stuff. I can’t even describe the freedom that comes with that. I am full of gratitude and wonder about the world and the possibilities inherent in it.
Om Mani Padme Hum.