Real Life Minimalists: The Budding Minimalist

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, The Budding Minimalist tells us how she overcame her shopping and collecting habits, and found the courage to purge the clutter from her life.

The Budding Minimalist writes:

I believe I inherited my “collecting” habits from my father, who loves to keep around Japanese artifacts from his childhood on his desk (in addition to the small trinkets he’s been given over the years) and has a collection of baseball bats, baseballs, and photos (all signed) from the local sports team. When I was younger, I resented the fact that my mother always wanted to throw away my childhood memories; toys I no longer played with or cared for, old clothes, or whatever junk I fancied on keeping.

My father understood how I felt and didn’t see the harm in keeping such things around. He would even offer to squirrel things away in the attic so that my mother wouldn’t complain – out of sight, out of mind.

I began to keep old newspapers and magazines in my late teens. Luckily, that awkward phase didn’t last long. But when I got my first job, I started to collect things I believed I needed for when I moved out on my own. I had access to Asian china, décor, and other knickknacks. And I had an employee discount. When I left that job for another, it was for a major retailer in household goods. Employee discount there as well.

Employee discounts can be a dangerous thing for someone who shops therapeutically and wishfully.

Sometimes I’d de-clutter a bit when I cleaned. Once in a blue moon, I’d look at all my stuff and just feel unnerved and would try to be realistic about whether or not I’d ever use the item – off to donations it went. Most often, I’d keep them in the closet, ready to be taken out for when I might have use of them.

It wasn’t until I watched several episodes of Hoarders non-stop that I truly questioned my shopping habits and the reasons why I was holding onto the items. At this point I already had my impulsive shopping habits mostly under control because I was tired of being overwhelmed and crowded (plus having a sensible significant other helps), but was still holding onto so much junk because of sentimental reasons or guilt – that it would have been a waste an investment or money, or that it was a gift from a friend or family member. I also have a terrible memory, so some of these items served as reminders of days gone by.

But all I really had was an addiction to acquiring items and an obligation to keeping up the museum of me.

I did some purging back then and no longer bought home goods or clothes on impulse, however, it wasn’t until I ran across the Miss Minimalist blog that I would really change my outlook on my consumerist life. After giving the blog a good look, I decided to check out The Joy of Less. I finished it in one sitting last Friday.

As of the time of this writing – Monday – I have purged nearly a dozen boxes of stuff. For a long time, I was afraid to get rid of old gifts or report cards from middle school. No longer! I even gave some items away to my parents, because they were unused and suitable to be gifted out for Christmas. This will save them some money; they can spend a good fortune on presents because my father buys gifts for all his co-workers. They even asked if they could keep two Sybil Shane prints, as an early Christmas gift from me to them.

I’m not done purging, yet I can already feel a lot of pressure lifted off my mind. I do not need to worry about buying certain furniture because “I’m supposed to.” I do not need to worry about keeping track of all the clutter (or cleaning said clutter.) I do not need this and that to enrich my life. I do not need to feel guilty for getting rid of items I have no use for. I do not need to live while being burdened by the past.

In an odd twist, my mother thinks I’m a little crazy for getting rid of all of this stuff. I told her I’m changing my life for the better. Thank you, Miss Minimalist, for freeing me.

{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.}

Related posts:

  1. Real Life Minimalists: Jennifer
  2. Real Life Minimalists: Frugal Babe
  3. Real Life Minimalists: Graduate

13 comments to Real Life Minimalists: The Budding Minimalist

  • The museum of me is such a great label for our clutter and a great tool to help declutter our lives. Does this museum of me represent who I was? Does it bring back happy memories? Does it require a lot of energy to maintain? Thanks for this insight and good luck with your journey.:)

  • Mrs Brady Old Lady

    “I do not need to live while being burdened by the past” – awesome.

  • That was so beautifully written–thank you for sharing! I, too, had “the museum of me” going on. It took some time to realize that memories will last, after possessions are gone.

  • I went through the same thing. Holding onto magazines for years without ever reading them again. I also bought Lagostina pots (with my employee discount) in my teens “to save” for when I lived on my own or got married. Then when I lived on my own, I wanted to save them until I had a nicer place. Finally, I realized my insanity (10 years later) and started using them. Since then, I’ve given them all away! Thanks for sharing your story! Happy New Year to you and all the budding minimalists out there!!!

  • How wonderful that you are starting off the new year with whole different mindset about the stuff in your life! You inspire me!

  • It really does feel so good to get rid of those things, doesn’t it? I dropped off a big load at Goodwill last week and right before I went I was literally searching every drawer, closet, and cupboard for more things to take.

    It can be hard to change when you have influence from parents for being a pack-rat. I wish you all the best in your journey and thanks for sharing!

  • Carolyn

    Yay for you! I love your phrase “shopping wishfully;” will try to remember that.

  • “But all I really had was an addiction to acquiring items and an obligation to keeping up the museum of me.” I think this is really a good summary to how many of us feel at one point.

    It’s fantastic that you’re carrying these habits into the New Year, and I wish you well! Good luck on your journey, and thank you for sharing!

    Aly @ MinimalismIsSimple.com

  • Chrystine

    After being let go a week before Christmas, I began to panic about where my income would come from. I have an amazing husband who stands in the gap, but my bills are my responsibility (mad shopping spree after three failed IVF attempts). Thanks to Miss Minimalist, I’ve been living on eBay, selling the very things I’m still paying for. It feels good to let go of this stuff that absolutely did not make my pain any less. See you on eBay!

    • The Budding Minimalist

      I’m sorry to hear about your IVF difficulties and being let go a week before Christmas. I really admire the charge and control you’re taking over your life. And I have to echo the sentiment it does feel really good to let go of all the excess belongings. May the New Year bring you joy and many parties of eBay Bidders.

  • The Budding Minimalist

    Thank you all for the kind words. Although I wrote this a couple months ago, I’m still finding things here and there I can get rid of and live without. I hope this New Year brings you all joy and good tidings.

  • Ahsha

    The amazing ME museum is never full as it has expanding walls. You are wise to see that and make positive changes. As we continue through life, we can always find things to remove or replace. I do it constantly even though my home looks clutter free at first glance. I keep finding one more book or item of clothing and as it goes out the door I breathe a sigh of relief and freedom. I wish you much success and many blessing in your life and journey to freedom from material things.

  • Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    It is so beautiful to see such a strong change in your direction and to hear of all the benefits these changes have brought about.

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