Real Life Minimalists: Anne S.

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 have an inspiring story from Anne S., who’s trying to recreate her own carefree, minimalist upbringing for her two young children.

Anne writes:

I was born into a minimalist family. We never used the word minimalism that’s just how we lived our lives. The only furniture in the living room was a love seat, chair, and a side table with a lamp. We had a small TV in the corner which we hardly ever watched except for movie night on Fridays. My bedroom had a bed, desk, and a small bin for my toys. I loved it! I had so much room to dance,play, and imagine. Saturday mornings was the day everyone helped clean house. It took about an hour and a half to do the whole place and then we had the rest of the weekend to spend time together as a family.

Our holidays where minimal too. My mom loved a good celebration, but it was never about things. It was always about family. Sure sometimes I would be jealous of the huge dollhouse complete with furnishing and mounds of dolls my friends had. But while my friends had their dolls ride on toy horses I was in my backyard riding on my dad’s back. Even as a little girl I knew I was lucky to have parents who were always ready to play with me and my brother.

I was a typical teenager. Wanting to wear the latest fashions and have the latest gadgets. It wasn’t until I moved into my first apartment that I realized how on target my parents are. I think most people have a period of excess in their lives that makes them truly appreciate the freedom of having less. I became a minimalist once again and remembered the joy it brings you.

As a mother of two young children I’m trying to recreate my carefree childhood. I want to raise my kids like my parents. I want their childhood to be bike rides and beach trips. I hope to teach them that life is about finding joy and happiness in yourself not in the things you buy.

{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: Anne S.

  • I loved your story. It is simple and i guess minimalism in your genes.
    my parents are minimalist but at the teenage and even after marriage i had loads of excess possessions but now i have turned back to minimalism. it is truly rewarding.

  • Great story, Anne. I aspire to have my kids also think, “I’m lucky to have parents who are always ready to play with me.” Your parents did a great job–I hope you’ve thanked them often.

  • Angie Martin Hall

    Well said. The picture you painted of your childhood was wonderful. I hope, as an aspiring minimalist, that I can do as much for my own kids. Your children are lucky to have you…you’re a mom who knows what’s really important…and how very special is that.

  • Oh to be raised a minimalist! My fondest memories of childhood tend to be the simple things like you said: riding my bike, going to the beach, playing with my cousins. I did have quite a few toys, but I definitely didn’t get everything I wanted – e.g. I had Barbie dolls, but no Ken doll, which made it a little difficult for role play. :)

  • I really enjoyed your story! That is exactly what I want for my own daughter, lots of memories of doing and experiencing and imagining. A lot of reading together. ( I read to her loads, my husband is amazing at playing with her.)

    I don’t want to spend time cleaning the house, arguing about cleaning it, or being stressed because it’s messy. Thus – little stuff.

    I also want to teach her about other values than valuing possessions and achievements.

  • Natalie

    I think it’s great that you’re aiming to spend time with your children rather than spending tons of money on toys because you don’t have time for them. If I ever decide to have children that’s what I want too. And I know that as a child I would gladly have traded all my toys for some more time with my father (he did give us attention, but as a single parent to 4 kids there’s only so much time for each of them).

    My period of excess was in University, ironically, when I was living on borrowed money. As a teenager I never had much money and was very frugal with it, so when I finally had my own money at university I decided to spend it. Mostly on clothes, like most of my class mates seemed to be doing. Fortunately I didn’t accumulate an awful lot of student loans and could pay them off within a year after graduation. The clothes didn’t make me happier, so now I’m back to my frugal minsumer ways. (:

  • It is a challenge to buck the system of materialism we live in, but well worth it! Wish you the best. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Ash

    What a beautiful story! I’m in the process now (at 22) of minimising all my stuff. I never experienced minimalism as a child – my parents are borderline hoarders (and it’s only getting worse as the years go on). Fortunately I moved out at 19, but definitely had the ‘accumulation’ period that comes when moving out, buying things I thought an adult ‘should’ own.

    While we weren’t rich and I definitely didn’t get everything I ever wanted, as an only child I was definitely spoilt with possessions. As a creative child I was often happy enough with a pile of paper, some pens, scissors and sticky tape! Ironically my parents often got annoyed at me for ‘wasting’ the sticky tape – which would have been 10 times cheaper than some of the things they bought me!

    While my parents definitely did interact with me at times, I remember clearly always being disappointed when they ‘didn’t want to play’. Even though I, like most kids, enjoyed getting ‘fun things’, I also remember from a young age (primary school) feeling guilty over all the possessions I was given. I would write ‘self-improvement lists’ and almost always ‘get mum to stop spoiling me’ was included. I understand now that giving me things was mum’s way of feeling love towards me, but ironically even today she goes on about how I was a spoilt brat as a child.

    Despite buying lots of things, my parents were also very frugal. I would often eat out of date food. They rarely cleaned the house (other than daily things like dishes and laundry) and growing up the old queenslander we lived in was in great need of renovation. Growing up I would have traded almost all of my possessions for a nice clean house that my parents didn’t smoke in, and that I could invite friends from school to without feeling ashamed. Sadly nothing has changed today. The house continues to deteriorate, and my parents just spent winter with a missing window in their bedroom (there are too many of dad’s clothes in the way to let tradesmen in to come and fix it).

    I really wish I could help them and sometimes I try, but I’m often met with resistance. It also breaks my heart seeing a beautiful house that has been in our family for generations deteriorate to the point where if it gets much worse, it won’t be fixable (even now there are wooden stumps that aren’t even holding up the house anymore…) I guess it’s time for me to let go and accept that it’s their life, but I’m finding it really hard.

    • Mrs Brady Old Lady

      Ah yes – trying to help hoarders… In TV series it’s all “oh if only we’d know we’d have done something before”, but you can’t, can you? I have friend who is a hoarder and believe me, I’ve tried EVERYTHING. At least I don’t live with her – I feel so so sorry for people whose parents / spouses are hoarders… there’s not a lot you can do, is there? I am so grateful that I’ve found and encorporated minimalism.
      No stuff, no stress…

  • A

    Anne, thanks so much for sharing your story – I’m finding this passage so inspiring: “I was born into a minimalist family. We never used the word minimalism that’s just how we lived our lives. The only furniture in the living room was a love seat, chair, and a side table with a lamp. We had a small TV in the corner which we hardly ever watched except for movie night on Fridays. My bedroom had a bed, desk, and a small bin for my toys. I loved it! I had so much room to dance,play, and imagine. Saturday mornings was the day everyone helped clean house. It took about an hour and a half to do the whole place and then we had the rest of the weekend to spend time together as a family.”

    The image you painted makes me want to go home and declutter my remaining two shelves of books, and then revel in the empty space and the outdoors! :-)

  • Carol

    What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing! :-)

    I have 2 kids. Sometimes I’m not strong enough to say no, but I believe they learned a lot from my example and are open to donating their excess and understand when I do not buy something they want.

    Regarding my childhood, I lived with a different person everytime, so I had to adapt to different life styles. My parents were teenagers and were not psychologically prepared to raise their children, so I lived a little with one grandmother (cleaned a lot, liked to give away her stuff, did not want anything for herself, she had 2 broken refrigerators she used as a cupboard and would refuse a real cupboard as a gift from her son), a little with the other grandmother (the opposite of the other gramma, but she taught me how to allow myself to have some fun, not everything is work work work), a little with my mom (loves reading, has way too many books) and a little with my dad (he used to be kind of a hippie), etc. Sometimes brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, stepmothers and stepdads also lived in the house, other times not.

    This varied background helped me chose what I wanted for my life considering the different situations I’ve been in ;-)

  • Anne S.

    Thank you everyone for your kind words. I’m not a writer at heart but it sure was fun being able to share my story. I love having a place to connect with other minimalist.

  • Interrobang

    What a beautiful story! My generation is the product of a historical/social context that made me realize the virtues of minimalism. I have always wondered how we can help younger people understand it in a world which extols the virtues of “having” as a criterion of self-validation. Thank you Anne S. for sharing your life story – it answers my question.

  • I love this. Annie S., the childhood you’re trying to create for your children reminds me of the Ladybug Girl books. (Here’s one I reviewed: It’s a childhood about experiences, imagination, and family — not stuff, shopping, and status. If you haven’t discovered the books yet, and your kids are the right age, they may be worth borrowing from the library. I love them!

  • What a lucky duck you are, Anne, to have such wonderful and enlightened parents!

  • Henny

    What a joy to read this story. I had a friend whose family lived like that. Initially, I thought they were poor, then I decided perhaps they were frugal, but over time I came to realize it was a choice to live that way, and I envied them!

    I hope to bring something of what you describe to my children too. Things, and over-commitments and distractions definitely get in the way of real, honest, moments.

  • Tina

    My mother has always been a hoarder. Recently tried again to help her get rid of some piles of magazines and papers. She has been the reason I have always tried to live with less.

  • Tina

    Living with less and less. My daughter brought over a bag of clothes for me to wash and pass along. I found a scarf I will use as an accessory. The rest joins our Goodwill pile. We have some DVD’s we need to sort through. Today, I am heading to the library with another bag of books to pass on. Batteries go to the village e-recycling.

  • Tina

    My daughter is a hoarder like my mom and my sister. I told her next time she comes here to bring a big bag of stuff for me to wash and give away. I was at her apt. some weeks ago and her friend and I took 2 bags of garbage out. I think some of the hoarding is genetic, my other children are not hoarders.

  • I help people organize as a charity fund raiser. There are a lot of people who aren’t hoarders, they just have way too much. When you have clothing you’ve never worn because you can’t reach it, or clothes that you haven’t worn in years taking up room in your closet, there is too much. We filled 5 garbage bags out of a small closet the other day. I have organized bathrooms by throwing out years old bottles of hair care products, lotions, and giving away worn out towels. I have helped clear out garages by removing 50 year old smelly suitcases, boxes of old papers, broken tools and toys. Save one, save six, you don’t need the whole box of wedding invitations or old Christmas cards.

  • Susan

    Oh, this was so wonderful!! Thank you for sharing your wonderful story!! I am so inspired!!!

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