Real Life Minimalists: Diane

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 Diane. She tells us how she went from being a minimalist youth to an adult with too much stuff–and how she’s now downsizing with great enthusiasm!

Diane writes:

I became a minimalist very young due to a severe respiratory allergic reaction to dust. My poor mom had to wash my painted bedroom bureau, desk and shelves every other day since I can remember, so in order to help mom, I left few items on my furniture. I couldn’t bear the thought of her having to lift and dust every knick knack; therefore all I had on my bureau was a pretty figurine she had given me; on my desk a radio and a pencil/pen set; and, on the shelves, my dictionaries – this made cleaning easy for mom.

When I left home to seek my independence, I didn’t want to clutter my life mainly because I would now be in charge of dusting and because I had become used to a clutter-free existence. But overtime, like many, I succumbed. Everyone around me had lots of furniture and, if you were an avid reader, lots of books so I too starting buying more stuff. Although some of the new stuff was antiques, it was still stuff. I had lived and moved to various cities and dragged all my stuff with me. Then, when I turned 40, I suddenly became claustrophobic in my own home. I was being suffocated by all the stuff. My kitchen had so much clutter on the countertops (even though I wasn’t much of a cook) in order to appear like a chef lived there (don’t the magazines always show cluttered kitchens to reflect the seriousness of the resident chef!). All my toiletries were evident in the bathroom because I felt it important that people (okay, women) notice my high-end brands. Aren’t I special because I used Chanel powder blush! My bedroom looked like a cyclone had gone through it but I just closed the door when visitors popped by. The living room was the worse – lots of books and plants and a table for this and a table for that, and a chair next to each, as well as a sofa-bed and lazy-boy chair and coffee table and bookcase and another bookcase and another bookcase. HELP! I sold what wasn’t important to me and kept the basics.

Years later, when my parents moved from their condo and into a retirement residence, I helped them downsize, except I couldn’t decide what to do with all the things they couldn’t bring with them so I stored them at my place. One year later, when it was difficult to retrieve things from my closets, cupboards and locker, I felt I was being suffocated again. It was then that I discovered How wonderful it was to read how she downsized her home, her wardrobe, her life and was able to travel with just one suitcase.

So I followed Miss Minimalist’s suggestions and kept only the kitchen tools I needed (I had five whisks!). I ended up taking a car load (13 boxes filled my trunk, backseat and passenger seat) to the auctioneer who had sold my parent’s furniture and he sold my stuff for a nice sum, which went immediately into my bank account. Next, all the books, DVDs and CDs are listed for sale on Amazon and that’s coming along just great. My co-worker lent me her digital camera and I am selling approx 10 pieces of furniture on Kijiji. I plan on retiring in Vancouver within the next 4 ½ years and only want to bring a couple of boxes filled with those special gifts that I’m keeping. Half of the furniture that I don’t currently use is being sold now, and the other half when I eventually put my condo up for sale.

I also like Miss Minimalist’s idea of using her laptop as a TV. I inherited my parent’s large screen TV but don’t get any channels as I hate TV; however, I do enjoy watching DVDs and my exercise and yoga DVDs. So when I do get to Vancouver, I’ll just purchase a laptop and that will be my entertainment centre (oh, and a cushion to sit on and preferably by a window).

Thank you Miss Minimalist and all of your bloggers with your fantastic stories, suggestions and ideas.  Vancouver has numerous condos many of which are between 400 – 600 sqft (my current one is 825 sqft), thus I am preparing myself for a future with even less stuff but more time to spend biking, volunteering and rediscovering the city I had lived in for awhile during the early 80s.

{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.}

12 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Diane

  • Greg C.

    “All my toiletries were evident in the bathroom because I felt it important that people (okay, women) notice my high-end brands. Aren’t I special because I used Chanel powder blush!” Oh, Diane! I am a guy, and I totally get this! Whilst it may not have been Chanel powder blush in question, I also believed that people would think I was special because I used – and could afford by extrapolation – high-end product. How misguided was I?! It’s all a part of Miss Minimalist’s “fantasy self”; moreover, if anyone was going to judge me by the brand of products I used, then there should be no place for them (the people) in my life! It was great to read your story, so thanks for sharing!

    • Diane

      Hi Greg,

      Thank you for your comments. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who thought like that. And you are correct about the friends; none of mine today would care about which products anyone uses and none of these friends buy high-end products when the less expensive one are the same quality (and company) and sometimes better!

  • Hi Diane ~

    It’s no wonder you found yourself buried in stuff with a childhood so devoid of it. Marketing folks are brilliant at getting us to buy out of fear, desire for status or guilt. Only the few born already hard-wired for minimalism and a joy of saving are able to withstand the barrage and resist the urge to buy. There aren’t many people like that!

    Over the years I’ve discovered that living the life you love requires constant attention so as not to fall back into patterns that can steal it away. Our eating, spending/saving, accumulation of stuff, relationships, etc., all require our focus and dedication in order to produce the quality of life we desire. The good news is that once you’ve achieved your goal you know how amazing it feels so it’s not so hard to reclaim it.

    I wish you well and hope your life is beautiful and exactly as you design it!

    Ree ~ I blog at

    • Diane

      Thank you Ree for your comments. It wasn’t easy growing up in a family of middle-high income bracket whose parents were married during the 1950s, a time when consumption started to grow and people were judged by the neighbourhood they lived in, size of the house, type of car and husband’s profession. To this day, my parents (as well as brother and sister-in-law) still judge others and myself in such a manner. But I have learned to smile at their comments then remind them how little time it takes me to do housework and how much more money I have to do the things I do enjoy: travelling and helping my favourite charities. But as you say, it requires our focus and dedication, two things I’m getting better at as I age.

  • Oh, what a wonderful story.

    My fiancé also suffered from similar dust issues as a child. The ‘your not allowed to have trinkets’ as a child turned into a rebellion of buying hundreds of them, and then she wondered why she got sick. She is simplifying her life now, and her health is improving greatly.

    I hope the downsizing and new life all work out beautifully for you :-)

    • Diane

      Thank you for your comments. I can understand your fiancé`s rebellion — we sometimes want the opposite of how we were raised. My brother and I were raised in an uncluttered and very tidy home (almost antiseptic); he now lives in a very cluttered house with a shopaholic wife and I`m still downsizing and having a wonderful time donating most of my things knowing they are needed elsewhere. I`m very much looking forward to retirement when I will have rid myself of everything and move with just two carry-on suitcases!

  • A

    Thanks so much for sharing your story, Diane! What resonated with me most is the cleaning. My husband has significant dust allergies, and keeping our home clean is easier when we have fewer belongings.

    Best of luck with your decluttering and your retirement plans!

    • Diane

      Thank you for your comments. I still have the dust allergies and found that keeping things in closets and drawers rather than out on tables help keep things dust-free and less dusting.

  • Tina

    I didn’t even think of all the trinkets as dust catchers. When we cleaned out my Mom’s condo, the mold and mildew gave us headaches and I lost my voice. She lived in MIami and never ran the air conditioning. I have a few stuffed bears, but I keep them in a plastic bag.

  • Tina

    I am constantly finding more to get rid of. we need to do some E-recycling again soon. About once a month, we take dead batteries, cords, electronic items, light bulbs, etc to the E recycling place in our town. The rest of the recycling gets sorted and put where it belongs.

  • Tina

    Our cats were playing with some cardboard boxes. We took them to be recycled. Another cubic foot of stuff gone. There aren’t too many clothes here, but a lot of my Mom’s romances on the shelves. I want to get rid of 4 or 5 pieces of furniture we don’t need but it may be a while. My husband loves to go shopping.

  • We have given away at least 100 books. I have given house plants away as I got more. The YMCA day camp got big bags of art supplies. I have been shredding old papers we don’t need. For Mother’s Day I got a plant I didn’t have and some jewelry.

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