Real Life Minimalists: Lena

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, I’m pleased to feature Lena from Germany. She just recently discovered minimalism, but it’s already changed her outlook on life!

Lena writes:

Hello! My name is Lena and I live with my husband & two kids in Germany.

At the beginning of February I visited some friends in their new house. They are a family of five living on 900ft2 and I expected it to be totally crowded. To my surprise I loved their house–it was clean, serene and didn¹t feel too small at all.

I thought: That’s what I want! At that point I didn’t really know what it was that I wanted and I didn’t realize why I liked their house so much.

I was always very organized and not a hoarder at all. Still, over the years a lot of stuff had accumulated. And this time, when I started my ritual of spring decluttering, I suddenly didn’t stop after the usual five books and two shirts. I just kept on going. And finally found a name for what I wanted (and what my friends did): Minimalism.

Now, we are still far from being minimalists. We still own a lot of books, a lot of tableware, etc. But I try to use as many ideas from minimalism as possible and my husband and I have decluttered A LOT. There is always a point when I think, now there is nothing left to declutter. And a couple of days later, I find more to give away. We were already able to sell four cupboards and my desk and I love the new space.

I realized that owning all that stuff made me anxious. I felt obliged to use all those cosmetics I owned (now I am making my own–the perfect minimalistic hobby, because you USE all of it and it makes great gifts without any clutter!), wear all the clothes that I didn’t really like (because I paid good money for it!). And I was also anxious to keep that high-paying job of mine in order to be able to keep up our lifestyle.

I have been toying with the idea of starting my own business and I now finally feel that I actually have the freedom to maybe quit my job (which I like but it doesn¹t fulfill me the way it used to) and just go ahead. It’s not decided for good yet, but I am so excited by not feeling held back for money reasons, that I just might do it!

{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.}

16 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Lena

  • Hi Lena, I love your story and strongly relate to being drawn to a minimalist lifestyle where you are working for yourself. It’s funny how we can sometimes get moments of complete clarity about what we want. And, it can be hard to not jump head first into that new clarity.

    In the case of becoming a minimalist, that’s not a problem as long as your husband/family are synced up with you; however, quitting your high-paying job to pursue working for yourself can be quite another thing. Take it from me, things can take a lot longer to develop in the world of self-employment than you may expect. You have much to contend with depending on the work you love.

    Fear is the biggest thing. It can stall forward movement and even cause you to fail. You may have to reveal information about yourself that you previously kept private, you might have to ask for the work/contract, you might have to speak in public…on-and-on…each of these can cause delays, which cost you money.

    You’re used to living on a nice salary (so was I). My advice to you is this: First, figure out exactly what it costs you to live over a year (track every penny you spend for a couple of months). Second, figure out what you think you’ll need to live on once you quit your job and then live on only that for a few months. You may be surprised at how hard it can be to cut back so you can make your money last! And finally, on top of your savings equal to a year of living expenses, build up an emergency fund of $3-$10k.

    Once you do that, you’ll feel free to really leave your job and build your own destiny. But don’t dilly-dally, time flies when you’re pursuing your passion and it may be difficult to monetize that work.

    I wish you all the success and happiness that clarity, passion and commitment can bring…

    Ree ~ I blog at

    • Lena

      Hi Ree, thanks for the comment and the good advice! I haven’t quit my job yet, because on top of trying to be a minimalist I’m also a realist with two kids :). But every day I feel that it is something else that I want. But unless I don’t have a plan, I won’t start anything.
      I like your advice to really know what I need for a living and figuring out if I can live with less.
      I’ve noticed that since I stopped buying stuff, I started buying dinners and concert tickets and…

  • I love minimalism because I value my personal freedom above most things. I didn’t like the feeling of being weighed down by my stuff. I feel lighter now and more clear headed in being able to pursue my passions because I’m not worried about “things.” It does take time to make life changes, but if you get going in that direction, you’ll get there eventually. Good luck with your business Lena and making new dreams come true!

  • Monique

    Dear Lena,
    Greetings from Germany. I am the only minimalist in my family. My husband an my two kids are the collectors in our family. That is not so easy for me.

    Do you like to built up a small minimalistic network in germany? I am in – so we are two :O)
    Was denkst du?

    Thanks for sharing.
    Viele Grüße

  • Thank you for sharing your story. It can be quite eye-opening when you experience something new for the first time and decide to try it yourself. I am glad to read that it has had an impact for you.

  • Small businesses can find ways around “required” capital, for sure! Best of luck and thank you for sharing.

  • Hi Lena!

    I’m living in Germany as well and am into this journey for about two years now. I’m finally at a point where I’d call myself “rather decluttered”, but still far from minimalist. However, it’s a rewarding journey nonetheless.
    Keep at it!

  • Especially for my fiancé, the benefits of less anxiety in her life was one of the major benefits of minimalism.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and I hope minimalism helps you to find more and more fulfilling ways to spend your time on this earth.

  • oh there IS already a huge number of minimalists in germany!

  • Dear Lena! Thanks for sharing your story! Your reaction to your friend’s house was exactly how I felt when I visited my Uncle in the UK – his house was pretty tiny but felt spacious & super zen! Amazing what a difference a little decluttering can do! I hope to have a house like that someday too! All the best with the potential new business venture! :D

  • […] Real Life Minimalists: Lena ( […]

  • Tina

    Many people around the world are living in spaces that in the US would be considered small. And they are doing it with families. Maybe we expect too much furniture and too many Knick-knacks in our spaces. I remember growing up seeing large families in 4 bedroom houses. Now I see even larger houses with few people living in them. Huge foyers and large dens. It must cost a fortune to heat and cool those homes.

  • Tina

    Many of our friends are empty-nesters with 4 bedroom homes. They fill the rooms with hobby and craft materials. We’ve seen model railroad set ups, astronomical observatories, quilting studios, gourmet kitchens for people who order out pizza, fabulous gardens, etc. etc. Since we like to visit our kids and travel, or play word games, we don’t need as much space. Our 1600 sq ft is almost too big for the two of us but it was just right when 3 of us lived here. Plus, we do get overnight guests.

  • Tina

    Continuously purging what we don’t need and not buying anything new have emptied our space pretty well. There are still things I want to sell and still art supplies to pass on. Clothes are basically what gets handed down in the family. I do have some puzzles for long winter evenings.

  • Tina

    Getting rid of the excess is helping me so much. I keep finding more and more I don’t need and want to give away. I wonder how much of the average house is fiilled with stockpiles of supplies. I find a few weeks’ worth is plenty.

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