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 have a compelling story from Kathryn, who explains how some volunteer work changed her perspective on possessions. Visit her blog to learn more about her current endeavor, urban farming.
My first steps into minimalism happened when I did a semester abroad working in an orphanage in Iasi, Romania. I remember feeling as if there was no way I could possibly pack enough for 3 months, yet when I arrived I realized these few things I had were more than so many of these children would ever possess. I played with and held developmentally delayed infants and children who would never be able to walk or sit up or feed themselves. I visited an apartment of 6 children with a rotation of caretakers. They would never have a mother, or a family. All their toys and clothes were donations. We worked in the hospitals as well. The hospitals are different in Romania. It is the parents job to attend to the children while they undergo treatments. Often the parents have other children to care for at home, far away in the country. Sometimes the children are orphaned, or abandoned. I visited infants in the hospital who only were held or had their diapers changed when we came to do it. We brought pacifiers, clothes, diapers, and blankets each time as well as love and human contact.
That semester was life changing in so many ways. As soon as I got home I started paring down my possessions. Even years later I am still finding things I can live without and letting go. My personal items are much fewer and the ones I still have are the most important to me. Now I have a family and a home and some of the things that come along with that, and sometimes it feels overwhelming. I am trying to raise my family with a focus on the people in our lives, instead of letting how much we own (or don’t want to own) get in the way of relationships. One of my daughters LOVES having things, so it takes some balancing to fill all of our different needs.
Through learning about my true priorities, I am opening up so many opportunities. Right now I am building a self-sufficient mini farm in the city. My daughters call it the “farm in our backyard.” I’ve been dabbling in blogging about urban farming at www.freeinglife.wordpress.com. Our lot is 1/10th of an acre with a 900 square foot home on it. We currently have a garden in raised beds, berries, and some fruit trees. We have 8 hens for eggs and two Nigerian Dwarf goats for milk. Next year we plan to incorporate rabbits and an aquaponic system as well as expand the garden. I’m starting to learn how to forage for wild greens. We have such an abundance in such a small space!
Our home is a hub for learning and living and I attribute that to living with fewer physical items and less emphasis on having and getting. Our focus is learning and doing. Sometimes that looks messy; it’s a fluid process with things coming in and out of our lives. Letting go of things leaves room in life for good experiences.