Real Life Minimalists: Trina from Beginner Beans

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, I’m pleased to feature Trina, who explains how decluttering their excess helped her family through a difficult time. Read more of her story on her blog, Beginner Beans.

Trina writes:

My efforts toward minimalism became more serious when my husband lost his job last year. We were living in Florida at the time–about 1,500 miles from our home and family in the midwest. Years of simplifying and battling clutter came to an epic change when our family of four faced moving across the country, jobless and homeless. I implemented my first “Project Eliminate” in attempt to clear out the excess for our upcoming move. We proceeded as best as we knew how. Selling everything possible, and eventually donating everything else that wasn’t essential.

This is something I wrote during day 2 of sitting amongst all our things during our moving sale:
“‘Things’ are really crampin’ my style. Oh, the relaxation I could enjoy and care I could provide my family if I wasn’t putting away, organizing, sorting, eliminating, buying, looking for, moving, removing, throwing out, selling, receiving, wanting, researching… THINGS.”

As stressful and difficult as that time was, I loved every moment of it! Finally having the permission I needed to let go of sentimental items or gifts or things I kept out of some sort of obligation was truly freeing. I gained a new perspective on what truly matters in life (my family) and what blurs my focus the most (“things”). I equipped myself with resources and inspirations like Miss Minimalist and The Zero Waste Family. Even though I knew we had a long ways to go to cleaning up our lives, I didn’t want this minimalist opportunity of changing my perspective to pass me by.

Miraculously, we completed our move financially sound, stayed with my loving sister and her husband for a few weeks in their small 2-bedroom apartment until my husband found a job and we moved into our own little 2-bedroom apartment. A year later, I am still as passionate about living a simple and focused life. However, being an American consumer, and the comforts of having an income and a home makes the journey against stuff ongoing (I largely blame my husband and kids). I’m starting my second annual Project Eliminate to once again reevaluate every belonging in our home. I hope to keep everything I learned through last year’s epic experience with me while I reevaluate the things we’ve allowed into our lives since then. It is an ongoing journey, but the benefits of simplifying are worth every effort.

Trina's Project Eliminate

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

22 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Trina from Beginner Beans

  • Good for you for getting rid of stuff BEFORE you moved. So many people will pay to move junk. It is so much wiser to get rid of it ahead of time and not pay to move it or have it around. I am glad to hear that your husband got a job. You have learned some valuable lessons the first move that will stay with you. You know what really matters in life, and it isn’t all about what you own.

    • Tina

      We are having epic flooding north of here. We live one block from the Des Plaines river. Luckily, we live in a 4th floor condo. My sister called from Los Angeles, my brother called from Israel, and my cousin called from Boston. Whenever there is a natural disaster, and I see people throwing out all kinds of ruined possessions, I am glad we don’t have much but the 2 cats and some pictures. We have no freezer full of meat, no stacks of paper goods, etc.

  • Your statement is huge, important … a true wakeup call for all of us who keep on pursuing the American dream of accumulating more and more and more – “Oh, the relaxation I could enjoy and care I could provide my family if I wasn’t putting away, organizing, sorting, eliminating, buying, looking for, moving, removing, throwing out, selling, receiving, wanting, researching… THINGS.”

    Thank you for speaking truth in such a profound way!

  • Trina,
    Thanks for sharing your story! You have inspired me to keep moving forward with my own more gradual minimizing process (which I’m calling “winnowing down”)to make more room for what is really important. I know and feel that with more space and less stuff to handle, sort, clean, organize, etc..(as you said)…there will be more time, and more focus, on the Important things. This has been an ongoing process of several years, waxing and waning–but each time I get a renewed burst of enthusiasm, I can consider letting go of a new category of possessions (inherited original artwork next).

  • Glad you’re back on your feet Trina! Most people feel the need to hold onto their things when times are tough. Way to have the courage to follow your own path! Getting rid of things before you move is key. I moved this past weekend back to my hometown. I was able to do it with just one car load because I decluttered before moving. But even with having fewer possessions, I’ve yet to become a fan of moving!

  • Lindsay

    I agree about the value of eliminating *before* moving!!

    I always tend to do it afterwards, out of frustration at having to have moved all that crap!!!

    As I anticipate the next few years are going to be nomadic I’m going to follow your example and start eliminating now! I’m hoping it’ll all go in one car (including the digital piano!!)

    Glad the move worked out for you and best of luck with the 2nd P.E!

  • Hearty congratulations, keep up the good work.

  • I enjoyed reading your story and so glad things are working out for you and your husband and that you are back on your feet. And yes, it is an ongoing journey to keep our lives simplified. After reading your post, I’m now motivated to tackle that closet that has once again gotten out of control and that I’ve been meaning to get to today! :)

  • Congratulations, you’ve done brilliantly at turning a difficult experience into a positive one. I cringe to think of some of our moves in the last few years (before we embraced minimalism) and how much we paid to move junk around the country. My eldest son is 4 and has had 7 homes so far so it was no small undertaking! This time we moved with just our plane hold luggage and although it was still a huge upheaval, it’s great to feel so much lighter!

  • It’s all about making baby steps, and you have the right idea! I really struggle with toys (yes, they’re all great toys, but there are so many that she doesn’t actually play woth them) and stuff that we’re “gonna use.”. I have started setting time limits: if we don’t use this by a specific date, it goes. It’s tough love, but it does seem to work.

  • AussieGirl

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I love the picture of the sleeping children amongst the ‘things’. :)

  • Just Rick

    Why does it take an event (such as a loss of employment) for us to realize our excesses? Or maybe we haven’t realized it – maybe we only categorize it as “minimization” because it has a nice spin (something nice to tell our friends).

    There are simple biological and social reasons why people gather/accumulate things the way they do. I won’t go into it here. In essence these are animal behaviors. However, one can choose to be less of an animal.

    I think it was Aristotle that defined a slave as a person that was bound by their own impulses – these people lack self-control. People bound by their impulses over-consume, over-eat, etc.

  • This is a very inspiring story. Thanks for sharing! :)

  • What a great post about where life can take you sometimes. It must have been a worrying time when you first began, but now you are an inspiration to so many people!

  • Thank you, all, for the wonderful feedback! It definitely was a trying time, but was a perfect chance to improve some bad habits and change our relationship to our belongings. I absolutely would not move again without first sorting through everything to only move the things we still use and love. And I quit browsing store’s clearance racks as a hobby :)

  • Thanks for sharing your story. I checked out your blog and I really like it! Especially “project eliminate.”

  • Cindy Kerstetter

    I loved what you wrote about things crampin’ your style. I really identified with that and want to remember it.

  • Thanks for sharing your struggle and experience. Your comment says it all…. thinking of the relaxation you *could* be experiencing. It takes so much effort to maintain stuff, that could be put to better use.

  • Caroline

    I really like your day 2 quote!

  • Tina

    We fill a give away bag every week. Every time something new comes in, one or two things leave. The only thing I collect is jewelry. I usually buy second hand.My husband surprised me by giving away a stack of books. I had a hassock in the living room full of papers and now it is empty. I am emptying a trunk so I can put the winter blankets away. By reading your blog I know what to go through next.

  • Tina

    My husband wanted a bigger TV and he got a 36 inch TV for free. He uses it to watch sports but not very often. I have another pile ready for the park district to use. There is plenty of paper around here for me to draw on, but I’ve been looking for a pad of sketching paper I know I have here and I’m going to keep cleaning til I find it.

  • Tina

    I used up 2 rolls of wrapping paper I bought years ago at Goodwill and I was going to get more after the holidays when I found more gift wrap in a cabinet. It must be 8-10 years old. I truly need nothing I can think of. I also found a little snowman one of the kids bought my husband years ago so I put it out on display.

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