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.
I love this story from Kristen June. She experienced the wonderful freedom of traveling lightly, and is now living a minimalist life in Madrid.
When I was about 6 years old I would collect scraps of papers, beads, rocks, ribbons, and other little pieces of garbage that were precious to me. My Grandma June, vigilantly tidy and non-materialistic, taught me how to get rid of things and keep a clean space. She had me close my eyes and turn around. Then she would throw one thing away and let me look back and try to figure out what she had thrown out. If I didn’t know what it was, it was obviously not as important to me as I thought it was, and it stayed in the garbage. If I noticed what was missing, it was rescued from the garbage. We went through this process for days, slowly and meticulously. Not a lot was rescued from the garbage, and I realized it really was neither necessary nor special to me after all. I think I was actually a budding hoarder turned minimalist thanks to her.
Last year I lived out of a backpack while traveling. When you carry your own things, you tend to start out with a large backpack and upgrade to a smaller one. You really realize what a burden your things are, and how what you once deemed necessary is actually unnecessary. Most of my expensive things were stolen such as my laptop and my cellphone. I was robbed countless times, but after I had nothing more of value (except my passport and money that I hid wisely) I didn’t have to worry so much about keeping track of my things. I thought about buying a new laptop while traveling, but then I realized that it was just another thing to be stolen. While traveling in poor counties I felt embarrassed about how high maintenance my life was, and traveling light helped me to relax into the culture.
I really need to fight against the tide now that I live in the big rich city of Madrid where people love things. Oh, there are so many lovely things to buy! But then I realize that I am being manipulated because that desire to have things does not come from my soul. It’s been difficult, but I think all of my things could still fit into my one piece of luggage. Books are things that I genuinely love, but they are heavy things and cannot come with me. After reading The Alchemist by Pablo Coelho I was inspired by the idea of only having one book at a time, reading it, then exchanging it. It sounds extreme, but it actually helps me finish the books I start. I have a cat and a boyfriend, and they are also minimalists. I have almost nothing. No debt and no assets. Honestly, it scares me sometimes because I see my friends buying houses and collecting nice things, and I worry if I am being irresponsible with my life. Reading this blog made me realize there is a community out there of people like me, and it’s very encouraging. I could never give up this freedom!