Real Life Minimalists: Michelle

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, Michelle tells us about her minimalist journey—from its beginnings over a decade ago, to her current “less is more” lifestyle. Please visit her blog to read more.

Michelle writes:

My process of becoming a minimalist is quite weird and interesting for me to look back on. I started out fond of collecting things – post cards, figurines…my belonging held a poetic sense of significance to me. However, even back then an image in my mind would keep popping up – an image of a small room with only a bed and a little table in it, and on the table was a cracked vase with flowers. I resonated with this image, but I left it tucked away in the quiet corners in my mind.

Then something inexplicable happened. I read The Lord of the Rings and by the end of the last book, I suddenly became incredibly sad. I was about 13 years old at the time and this feeling lasted for two weeks. I learned later that everything I experienced and exhibited during that period matched all the signs of depression. One of the things that happened is I lost all attachment to the objects I cared about. That was when I started throwing and giving things away.

I am 24 years old now and even though my beginnings as a minimalist were a bit melancholic, my way of life as a minimalist makes me happy. Through the years, I have slowly pared down to a very minimal wardrobe (why keep clothes you rarely wear anyway?) and eliminated many things from my life. I do have a library of books, but I am comfortable with leaving them behind as I’ve already started developing my ebook library. When I do have something that isn’t completely necessary, I look at the object as something that is simply passing through my life – not something that I need to find a permanent “home” for in my life. I do own journals, but (and this might sound extreme) when they are full, I throw them away. I look at a journal as a tool that has helped me grow, but at the same time, it contains a version of me that I don’t want to identify with anymore. The act of throwing the journal away for me is like an affirmation that it’s time to write more future, not read over the past. And that is what minimalism means to me. Every time I let something go, I feel like I am creating room for new experiences and deeper relationships. I’m putting my focus where it really matters.

And it’s funny, because I didn’t even know what a minimalist was until I stumbled on this blog. :)

My blog is www.secretowl.org.

{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: Victoria
  2. Real Life Minimalists: simple in france
  3. Real Life Minimalists: Janet

36 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Michelle

  • I write and throw away journals too. I don’t see the point in keeping them as I will never read them, and even if there was a piece I wanted to read again. . .I’d never find it
    For me Journals are about the now and the future not the past

  • ggcatlady

    What a great story. There are lessons there for all of us. I like the idea of thinking of your things as just passing through instead of staying. I also write journals and last year I burned a lot of them. You are right, Michelle. It’s best to look forward, not back. I too suffered from depression and my journals were not fun to read.

  • Dan

    Very nice realizations for someone your age. Attachment – whether to the past or to material items – causes most of our confusion and despair in life. Being mindful and living in the now brings true happiness and spiritual strength.

    Six Steps to Spiritual Strength

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  • “I look at the object as something that is simply passing through my life – not something that I need to find a permanent “home” for in my life.” I love that thought process. I have been on a sympathy move with my best friend. It is like a husband that feels labor pains. My best friend is moving and of course getting rid of the things she doesn’t want to move. I have been doing the same thing for 6 months or so except I am not moving. So freeing.

  • Thank you for sharing! You know, my (now) husband and I read LOTR together back when we were dating as teens, and the ending made me really sad too,

    I, too, have thrown away journals. Sometimes I find it empowering to read what I wrote during difficult times (and I would include letters and e-mails here too), and sometimes I like to look back and see how I’ve changed. But other times I just find it to be upsetting, and then they have to be thrown away.

    Now I’m going to check out your blog. ;-)

  • Michelle – You said:

    “I look at a journal as a tool that has helped me grow, but at the same time, it contains a version of me that I don’t want to identify with anymore. The act of throwing the journal away for me is like an affirmation that it’s time to write more future, not read over the past.”

    I love this mindset!

  • Hi Michelle! I find that so many things (and sometimes people), just sort of pass through our lives. And that we should enjoy them while we have them and then let them go when it’s time. I sometimes think we never really own anything at all. We’re just borrowing it for a time.

    • Yes, when we let go of things, even things that are “good”, the “great” gets to rush in. I recently closed down a coffee shop I was running. And even though it was “good” and doing good, as soon as I let go of it, so many awesome things started to happen in my life just because I was more open and free to receive and see them.

      Reminds me of a friend who was in a “good” relationship with someone but there were some serious moral differences that led her to end the relationship and now she is with someone better – that wouldnt have happened if she was still holding on to the “okay guy”

    • Machahatta

      Agree totally! As the saying goes, “Friends come along for a reason, a season, or for life” – so very true!

  • Cindy

    Beautifully stated. I too throw away my journals and view them as tools to help me move on to new experiences. I don’t find use in looking backward, but rather, I enjoy creating something new. Your post is lovely.

    • Thank you, it’s not completely easy throwing away a journal, but the act itself makes your brain shout, “OKAY LET’S DO THIS! TIME TO WRITE A NEW LIFE STORY.”. :)

      We got to shake ourselves up sometimes.

  • I found your story about being very depressed due to the book to be really interesting. A good friend recently told me about how she got extremely depressed after she finished 50 Shades of Grey and I think I may have come close after reading One Day. I’m glad it resulted in something good for your life though.

  • I enjoyed reading your story. I respect your attitude about throwing away journals. I am a little older than you, and have children. As I have looked through my old journals, there are details there that I didn’t remember correctly and experiences I have retyped into a file before getting rid of the journal. Some day, my children will have these experiences and know me better. I am only sharing this in case you haven’t thought of it. A journal is a very personal thing, and I chosen to keep the things I am willing to share with others, and have discarded the rest since I felt it iwas only for me to read. I love you sentence about things just passing through our lives and not needed a permanent home. Good luck in your journey.

    • Hi, yes, I do the same thing. :). Before throwing away a journal, I look at what is worth keeping and I would type it up and email the passage(s) to a friend who I think would appreciate it so that way it gets out there and adds value to other peoples’ live right away.

      I’ve been thinking of additional tactics – like I could take a picture of the pages worth keepings and put them on a private blog for safe virtual keeping.

  • I have also thrown away journals, more specifically I reread them, shred them, and (more lately) compost them in my garden.

    Also I have felt depressed after reading certain books — sometimes I don’t get all the way through and it’s too much to keep reading. Others I have that feeling at the end. It’s hard to know why- maybe the ending is not what I anticipated, maybe I became engrossed with the characters to the point of having to re-enter reality when I put down the book.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • I think because JRR Tolikien actually wrote the LOTR to be allegorical of the Salvation Story. I think for that reason it resonates with poeple on a level that goes beyond just being a “great story”. To me it felt like returning to earth after tasting heaven.

  • I enjoyed reading you.
    Thank you for your time and inspiration Michelle.
    I find that accumulating stuff can be addicting.
    But I am discovering that getting rid of it can be even more addicting!

  • From looking at your blog, becoming a minimalist has allowed you to really focus on what you love in your life Michelle, what an inspiring girl you are! :)

  • I also recycle journals. I just started a separate Gratitude Journal, and those I think I will keep; at least for a while. A) there will be fewer of them B) I would be willing for my children to read them! My journals are process, not product.

    It is interesting what emotions force us to release our attachment to things. I can see how depression would certainly do that; for me it has been my desire to demonstrate to my daughter that a life rich in people, love, and experience is better than any item she could come across. And during these formative years, I really need to establish “normal” for our home and family culture!

  • Minimalism means different things to different people but your take on minimalism as practising non-attachment and living in the now is an uplifting interpretation. Good luck with your journey and your blog xo

  • Miss Mini

    Your story is so inspiring. Like the many others who have commented on your story, I, too, love how you see objects as something that is just passing through your life. That is so true. May I ask, how did your depression from reading LOTR drive you to start paring down? Thanks!

    • Hello, I am glad people are finding my perspective inspiring. Apparently, one of the symptoms of depression is losing interest in things that you used to be interested in basically. For me, it ended up being a positive turning point – it opened a door to a better way to live.

  • Tom

    I am so happy that I found your blog. It makes me feel good to read other minimalist are out there. My family thinks I have gone crazy, but they don’t seem to mind the free stuff I have been giving them as I clean out my closets and such.

    We have started our own blog and actually gave up watching TV.

    So much more time to enjoy the real world.

    Thanks for sharing, and enjoy your break.

  • Great post, Michelle! I have journaled since I was a child and have thrown away and burned most of my journals over the past several years. I used to believe I needed to keep them as a way to document my history/past, but then I went back and read some of them, and often they seemed so silly, or I had changed so much since I last wrote, etc., that I realized it was okay to let them go. I also asked myself I would want someone else to read them if I were to die, and the answer was no! : ) It was very freeing to get rid of them!

  • It is so interesting to me how we have these moments in our life of complete clarity. I remember one when I was 13 as well and I couldn’t tell you why it happened.

    I have gone digital with my journals and I hold onto a document until I just feel like it is time to let go. Whether it is physically burning, shredding, or just throwing away a journal, or hitting delete, it is a symbolic gesture to oneself of letting go and even starting anew.

    I also think it is interesting how blogs like this one give us a sense of camaraderie, yet most of us were minimalists before the term was ever coined. I am so happy that there are others like me that realize that by removing what is not important, we can then see what is.

    MarieG LifeSimplyBalanced.com

  • LD

    I write in my own electronic journal & find it very useful. I will go back often & read it for various reasons. Usually I’ll eventually delete a lot of the negative & unimportant things, but what I love the most is reading about my feelings & experiences for my partner. It’s an ongoing gift that enhances the current moment & is something very special to both of us.

    • Yes I started keeping an electronic journal, but there’s something about pen to paper for me that gets my brain to work on a deeper level.

      I want to start keeping a gratitude journal that I use specifically to focus on things that I have a hard time appreciating.

  • I have been trying to figure out what about Lord of The Rings (my favorite book of all time) triggered this! That said, what an incredible story. A great age to be at peace with the concept of minimalism. I will be sure to check your blog out.

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