Real Life Minimalists: Hulya

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.

Today we meet Hulya, who tells us about her decade-long minimalist journey and the inspiration behind it. Be sure to visit her blog, A Minimalist’s Musings, to learn more.

Hulya writes:

Although I’m new to the blogland I’m not new to minimalism. For the last 10 years I have been methodically, diligently minimising my possessions, decluttering my environment and my mind. The benefits are enormous. I’m much calmer, more organised and definitely jollier.

Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, I came to London 22 years ago and fell in love with this city which I call home now. However, leaving Istanbul was hard. Apart from the fact that I was leaving my family home for the first time, I agonised about departing without my beloved books and cinema magazines that I had collected over the years. I left the custody of my precious books to my dear dad. Every summer when I visited him I lovingly stroked my books, turned the pages of my magazines. Then one summer dad told me that they had had a bad flooding and most of my books which were stored at the basement had been ruined! I was heartbroken. But that incident thought me that, at the end of the day, events that we cannot control like fire or floods will happen and as long as our loved ones are unharmed nothing is that important.

Nowadays when I visit my dad, my family and friends marvel how light I travel. I do take the minimum amount of necessary items and get anything that I desperately need over there. It’s that simple.

My evolution from being a collector to a minimalist also stemmed from my profession. For the last 12 years I have been working in health and social care. As a social worker working with older people, I have the privilege of visiting people in their own homes and see the effects of hoarding first hand. Usually one of the most difficult decisions they have to make is to choose the most valuable ones among their possessions when they have to move to a care home or to move in with their children or other relatives. It is really agonising to see them go through this process. It’s also difficult for their children to assist them and even worse to clear out the home after their mum or dad pass away. Not only do they to deal with the loss of a loved one they also need to go through a mountain of stuff that may or may not have any relevance to their own lives. I hope that I won’t leave anyone with this difficult task in the future.

At the moment, I’m enjoying my minimal wardrobe (50 items, winter and summer clothes combined), minimal kitchen equipments and gadgets and the technology of computers and Kindle. As an eternal lover of books, Kindle has been indispensable. I even got rid of my bookcase! Is my home really empty? I wouldn’t say so; I still have furniture but every item I own has a purpose and I love having each and every of them. I wish every reader best of luck at their journey towards minimalism. It’s definitely a great destination to take!

{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.}

39 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Hulya

  • Mrs Brady Old Lady

    My thoughts exactly – when I shall be completely gaga whomever will put me in a retirement home / loony bin won’t have to spend a lot of time deciding which of my stuff is my favourite and should go with me -I intend to have very few possessions!

    • Hi Mrs Brady Old Lady, thanks for your comment. I would like to follow Gandhi’s footsteps and leave this life like he did, with less than ten wordly possessions. For me, it’s not the objects that are important, but the shared memories with people.

  • Oh, that’s really interesting what you say about seeing the effects of hoarding on older people. That gives me lots of food for thought. Am also on the minimalist journey, good luck with yours and thank you for sharing.

  • Interesting that a flood gave you a push. When I assess my possessions I ask myself “If I lost this in a house fire, would I go out and replace this?” If the answer is no I let it go.

    • Hi Erin, thanks for your comment.Your question is definitely a good way of eliminating the indispensable items from the dispensable ones. And that elimination process is very liberating.

      • Muriel

        My parents also suffered a terrible flood last year – both the basement and first floor up to within inches of the ceiling were under water for weeks. I was far away and could only pray & offer support and advice over the phone. This has left me with two questions/thoughts as I continue my slow processing of all my possessions:
        1) If I had to jump up and leave this room right now with only what I could cary, and never come back – what would I want to take with me?
        2) If this room/drawer/box/container/shelf were flooded/burned, would I miss this item/book/paper/etc.?

        The first question sometimes has surprising answers for me. I would have thought that the wine glasses from our wedding held the most meaning for me, but instead when I asked that question, the precious items were the chopsticks my husband bought us, the little kitchen stool (built by my grandfather for my grandmother), and one certain coffee mug. Everything else I looked at and thought “that’s completely replaceable”.

        The second question can be quite liberating when I get overwhelmed with the sorting. I can either think of a specific personal/emotional reason why this thing would be missed/is precious, a logical reason why it would be missed (say, tax papers or a favorite recipe), or else the answer is a gleeful NO! and away the thing goes! :-)

  • Hi Hulya! Thanks for sharing your story. My grandma recently went into a home. My uncle and aunt were left to decide what to do with all her things – her many, many things. It was very stressful for them. For years we have been telling my grandma that she had too much stuff, but she wouldn’t (couldn’t?) change. It’s just unfortunate because eventually the stuff does get taken away, but it comes from having to rely on others to do it. I find this, dare I say it, selfish.  Things should never come before people. 

    • Hi Sandra, thanks for your comment and thanks again to Miss Minimalist to allow us sharing our stories.I totally agree with you that people should come first. I witness the selfish and stubborn attitude of people when it comes to their possessions, how they behave totally irrational and cause more rift between them and their families. Very sad, indeed.

  • Karen (Scotland)

    My Gran lived in a 3 bedroom house but was waiting for a place in a one bedroomed OAP bungalow so she had been decluttering for a year. She was never over-sentimental but even I was surprised with the ruthlessness with which she went through her possessions.
    “Written account of your Papa’s dad’s life? Well, I never really like the man much – bin it!”
    “That Christmas decoration made by our Carol’s mother-in-law? Always thought it was a dust-catcher – bin it!”

    She was mentally and physically preparing herself for the move and she thoroughly enjoyed the process.
    Sadly, she died before moving to her new home but I am often thankful of the stress she saved her daughters (my Mum and aunt) by having got rid of so much that year before she died. My aunt was overwrought, my mother dealt mostly with the admin and most of the physical house-emptying fell to my sister and me. It still took a week of sorting to empty the house so I can’t imagine the stress of emptying a hoarder’s house.

    Interesting to hear your perspective as a social worker who often has to prepare people for this stage in life. I can imagine it makes you more realistic and accepting of the fact that, eventually, life reaches a place where the leaving of our stuff is inevitable, so better to leave good memories than a pile of stuff.

    Karen (Scotland)

    • Hi Karen, thanks for your comment. Wow, your gran was great!I’m already like her, ruthless when it comes to decluttering:) I question and requestion myself before I bring anything to my home. After long calculations, if I can justify its presence, I do buy it and enjoy it thoroughly.
      As a social worker, it’s very draining to try to change people’s mindset and explain to them that you are trying to improve their quality of life, but every little step to that decluttering goal is very rewarding,too.

  • Annabelle

    VERY well said! “every item I own has a purpose”!!!! Yes!!!

    Great story and thank you for sharing about your journey! I’ve learned from your lovely words!

    • Hi Annabelle, thanks for your comment. Thanks for appreciationg my words. Some people think that I’m always in a utilitarian mode, but that’s fine.I’m at peace with myself and my surroundings.

  • Ariel

    Emptying a house started my minimalism as well. My grandma was a low-grade hoarder and it took weeks to clean up after she died. Affairs were a nightmare as she had hidden 4 different, undated and un-notarized handwritten wills all over the house. After that, I view my things through the lens of what my children will do with them when I die. I chose not to get my master’s thesis bound, because I know that’s one of those things that no one can bring themselves to throw away, yet no one reads. I have it on my computer and that’s all I need.

    • Hi Ariel, thanks for your comment. The misplaced, unreadable wills are definitely mindboggling, nightmarish affairs. It can cause unnecessary and very unpleasant confrontations, heartache between the family members. I’m so impressed with your solution regarding your master’s thesis. As long as it is safely backed up, your children will never have to worry about and can admire what you have achieved any time they want.

  • Gayle

    My own mother got me started last Fall with a comment about some notebooks of meeting minutes or something like that she found in her house….she’s 83….and she offhandedly said she wouldn’t want someone else to have to go through those and decide which to keep or pitch. It was probably an insignificant comment to her, but life-changing for me! Suddenly I felt as if a big magnifying glass was hovering over my life and my STUFF and everyone could see the piles of un-used yarn, the books I’ll never read again, the fabric and patterns I had no idea what to do with, the unfinished quilting projects, the piles of photographs to go through “someday.” It was the push I needed to declutter in a major way, which finally even extended to my wardrobe and CD collection! I feel like I have breathing space now, without so many projects and somedays hanging over my head. I can spend a lovely day like today reading a book on my Kindle on my screened-in porch and not think twice about it!

    • Karen (Scotland)

      lol! I use a similar thought process too. A couple of summers (summer’s?) ago, we were going on holiday and I suddenly had the awful thought that, if we all died en route, my family would have the awful task of emptying our attic on top of the trauma of us all dying. (Morbid but that’s sometimes the way the mind goes when planning to travel.)

      I try to use that thought to motivate me when it comes to finishing off so many tasks that “hang around” (photos in albums, unfinished crafts, getting my wedding shoes dyed – ten years married now, btw…) How embarrassed I would be if people saw the various “messy corners” of my house. And I wouldn’t even be alive to defend myself. :-)

      In fact, it’s spurring me on to get something done tonight. OK, sewing basket of repairs, here I come.

    • Hi Gayle, thanks for your comment. Well done! I believe we are the lucky ones who had their EUREKA moment and discovered the liberated lifestyle that doesn’t chain us to unnecessary piles of item. I wish you many happy hours on your lovely porch enjoying your Kindle. I only wish I could do that, too. Unfortunately, I don’t even have a balcony. But I’m blessed with living in a city like London, covered with beautiful parks.

  • Ugh, I so agree! My parents’ house is stuffed to the gills…they say they are determined to sort through their basement soon, so that we don’t have to do it when they die (hopefully years from now, of course) but they haven’t done anything about it. I like how you said that if you decide to buy something, you do, and then you enjoy it thoroughly. How many people can say that they actually enjoy their purchases? When it is just one thing among thousands, not much enjoyment can be had! That really resonates with me right now.

    • Hi Emily, thank you for your comment. Yes, it’s a very satisfying feeling to cherish every piece of clothing in my wardrobe, every item of furniture in my living room ,the dinnerware and cooking utensils (absolute bare necessities-no fancy gadgets in my kitchen!)and I recommend this approach of eliminating from a mountain of clutter only the necessary to all my friends. All the best.

  • T

    Very timely post. My siblings and I are trying to help my parents transition to a retirement home. I am losing my entire summer vacation (3 months) because of their refusal to address downsizing years ago, and it is also costing us all great deal of time and money. It is also very, very stressful for everyone involved. I will not do this to my children.

    • Hi T, thank you for your comment and good luck (and a lot of patience) with your parents’ move to the retirement home. I understand (and certainly sympathise) how daunting the task is, especially when it costs you your well deserved summer holiday. However, please stay positive and think that at the end of the downsizing process they will have a lovely home that they will enjoy for the rest of their lives and your valuable contribution. All the best.

  • Thanks for sharing! I loved reading your blog, and I will definitely be back. :-)

    I hear you, with the Kindle. I, too, am a bookworm, and I’ve found that ebooks just take up so much less space. I love trying to find the free epubs… ;-)

    • Hi Bethany, thank you for your comment. So glad that you visited my blog. I have been a follower of your lovely blog for a while but never left a comment. I’ve been a bit shy:) But there is no holding me back now! I’m loving this blog community.
      I’m also very keen on Kindle free books. I’m enjoying the classics all over again (reading Anne Bronte’s Agnes Grey at the moment). All the best.

  • s.e.

    I started cutting down on our stuff 4 years ago when I realized that I was going to be stuck dealing with the contents of my parents’ house. My dad died a month ago and I have a huge job in front of me helping my mom get rid of stuff in preparation for a move into an apartment in the fall. My dad loved to shop, his clothes along filled up an entire car when we donated them last week. I am still working on my house with renewed interest too so that my kids won’t have to go through anything like this.

    • Hi s.e. Thanks for your comment. I’m very sorry about your loss and wish you all the emotional and physical strength to deal with moving your mom to her new apartment. It’s a very draining time for you, I’m sure. But with your minimalist outlook to life, this huge task can get more managable, I hope. All the very best to you and your family.

  • Shelley

    It does really make you think about how important your stuff is when you measure it in terms of what you leave behind when you’re gone. I haven’t really had anyone close to me die, but when my husband’s grandma was put into a home it did make me realise that people spend their whole lives collecting and purchasing and taking pride in their homes and possessions, only to leave them behind in the end. What’s the point? Nobody ever remembers a person fondly for having such and such material possession – it’s the person they remember and what they meant to them.

    I totally agree with Gayle. My days off from work can now be spent reading, relaxing or spending time with my son rather than thinking I have to constantly organise and clear out stuff.

    • Hi Shelley, thanks for your comment. It’s absolutely true that people,their personalities and not their ‘stuff’ should always come first. All the best.

    • Lydia

      I’ve thought about that too (i.e. “what’s the point of having anything if you just have to leave it behind one day?”). I’ve come to the conclusion that the point of having material things is to enjoy them while you’re here. :) When you only have a few carefully and purposefully chosen things, those things can add to the pleasure of life. Having too much does the opposite–it takes away from your enjoyment of life.

    • Bauunny

      I totally agree. I remember vividly a speaker talking about his mother who had recently passed away. “in her day” she had been a very fashionable woman with beautiful clothes and jewelry. He was reflecting on the fact that when you leave this word you don’t take your “stuff” with you…… go as the person you are.

  • Hi Miss Minimalist,
    Thank you once againg for giving me the opportunity to meet this great community. I’d like to inform you that I have nominated your inspiring blog for One Lovely Blog Award. All the best.

  • Having cleared out my mum’s house after she died, I totally understand how this can be a push towards minimalism, it certainly was for me. I wish we’d managed it during her lifetime as I think she was so held back by her clutter. I thought we’d have the chance to do it together but she died at 55 after a very short illness. I am determined that my children should never have to do the same.

    • Hi Ailsa, thanks for your comment. My mom also passed away at the age of 55. Her sudden death was a total shock to me, my dad and my brother, but she was such a tidy and organised homemaker we did not have any trouble with her belongings. It was the emotional weight of loss that was unbearable. However, I don’t know if it will be the same with my dear dad:) I wish my dear dad many, many more long years,as he is a wonderful dad, but he is a bit of a ‘collector'(!) So, as you can imagine, I’m working on different strategies to clear out his stuff when I’m visiting him, before the inevitable happens. All the best.

  • […] moved away, then lost the possessions that remained at her parents’s house in a flood. (Here is a link to her story.). If you’re reading this, studying up on minimalism, you probably […]

  • Tina

    Although it took a lot of effort and time to go through my mom’s stuff, the worst is having her in a nursing home asking who got her mixer, toilet paper, ironing board, pots, silverware, plastic dishes, etc. She also hoarded magazines and papers of all kinds. Because of mold we had to throw out a lot of books, fabric, etc. When I get a magazine(free) I cut out what I want and pass on the rest. My goal is to have very little as I get older, and use it all.

  • Tina

    My husband has been getting rid of some of his stuff. For years, I had tried to get him to give things away and now he finds books he hasn’t looked at in years and hobby materials to give away.

  • Tina

    My husband has been getting rid of some of his hobby stuff. I am delighted. He still has at least 20 T shirts but they are put away. The hobby stuff was everywhere.

  • Tina

    I keep only a few of anything. I have seen hoarded houses and they upset me. I don’t know why people need 26 white blouses or 20 tank tops. I can’t imagine joining a warehouse club unless you are buying for a business or a non profit.

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