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.
This week, we hear from Lydia, who tells us how minimalism is helping her embrace a fabulous opportunity to study abroad!
I’ve always considered myself something of a minimalist. Even when I was a kid, I felt overwhelmed by “too much stuff”, and was happiest with just a few favorite toys and outfits. As an adult, I love sharing an apartment with a bunch of roommates, and I’ve never had more stuff than could fit in my bedroom (not counting my car, of course!). In the past year, though, I’ve been challenged to rethink whether or not I really need even that much!
Last August I went to Pennsic—it’s like a massive Renaissance faire, only instead of going home at the end of the day, you camp out with 10,000+ people for two weeks straight. I stayed in a tent with a waterproof bin full of clothes, a camping cot and sleeping bag, a cooler for food, and my ipod. And I was happier there than I had been all summer. I struggle with an anxiety disorder, and I realized afterward that I had not had a single panic attack since I unglued myself from the debt-ceiling negotiation news coverage, drove to Pennsic, and spent two weeks without news media fearmongering.
I loved that people there ate meals together around the campfire or at picnic tables set up in common areas. Most people had their own tents for sleeping in, and aside from that everything else in the campsite was shared space for socializing. In the real world everyone is so obsessed with having “their own” of everything and not having to share, from appliances and bathrooms to outdoor space and swimming pools, and I think that can isolate people. When I came back from Pennsic I gave my TV to my sister, and when something came up that I absolutely had to watch (i.e. my favorite football team in the playoffs!) I had so much fun going to a packed sports bar with friends and watching games with tons of other cheering fans.
Recently I found out that I’ve been awarded a grant to study opera in Paris. As an aspiring singer with a particular love for French Baroque opera, this is a dream come true for me. I decided right away that I would spend as little as possible on housing, furniture, and other material things there, so that I can have more money available for experiences. I’ve got my bed in one suitcase (a roll-up tatami mat and wool futon mattress, duvet, sheets and pillows), a laptop bag, a suitcase full of clothes and shoes, and another suitcase for music books and kitchen stuff. I sold all my furniture, except for a mattress and a gorgeous leaning desk/shelf set that my parents are borrowing for their guest room. Who knows how I’ll feel about how much I need to live comfortably when I get back to the US? I might decide that life is a bit too bleak without at least a few fun decorations in my living space, or I might decide I want a comfy sofa so that friends can come over and feel at home. I might want a dresser so I can shove my clothes messily in drawers without having to fold laundry! Right now, though, I’ve got the same free, joyful, happy feeling that I had at Pennsic living out of a tent. I don’t plan to buy any furniture when I get there either; I would rather spend 30 euros on a ticket to the opera than a coffee table. Wish me luck!