Real Life Minimalists: Kelley

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, Kelley tells us about her own minimalist philosophy, and explains how a series of moves has kept her possessions in check. Be sure to visit her blog to learn more.

Kelley writes:


My journey to minimalism began rather unofficially when I was preparing to leave for university. I had begun making a packing list in an effort to list only the things I would really need to take with me and avoid just packing everything in my room. I remember my best friend and future roommate thinking that a packing list was a ridiculous idea and making fun of me for it. But to me the move was the ultimate in the practice of packing away something you think you don’t need and seeing if you come back to it. If I didn’t need it when I was at school then I didn’t really need it.

I eventually left the university where I was and moved back in with my parents to attend a local school and was once again surrounded by innumerable possessions–mine and the rest of my family. It wasn’t until I had lived outside of my family home environment that I realized how much I craved uncluttered spaces. I began to find myself unable to think quite straight with so many distractions of objects and visual chaos around me.

After two years earning my degree at my parents’, I got married and moved to another state. My husband and I had received loads of lovely gifts for our wedding that we did in truth need since we were very young and neither of us had really lived on our own. We moved into a very small student housing apartment with no storage to speak of whatsoever so we only brought what we really wanted in our home and left the special occasion items packed away at my parents. (These were things like our china, punch bowl/serving platter, etc.) It was easy to see what items we didn’t really need.

Shortly thereafter we began a series of moves that led to us moving 6 times in our first 4 years of marriage. The first move was only across town, but then we moved several states away. Moves always force people to really confront everything they own so we got quite used to downsizing. Our next move was to be an overseas move and that’s when I found Miss Minimalist. I remember devouring the Kindle book just a few months before our move and identifying so much with the story of her overseas move. Since we would only be there for a short time (8 months), we planned to store most of our things and to bring about 6 or 8 duffel bags with us. Again, another perfect way to see what we really wanted in our lives. We lived fairly simply in a very small, furnished apartment and I remember being excited to be like Miss Minimalist and try out living with as few decorations and extra things as possible. I was actually disappointed the day we moved in and found that our obviously very kind landlords had hung curtains and pictures for us.

We made two more moves after that and now we are in the first place where we will live for at least a year since that first student housing apartment. We have downsized a lot and I am satisfied with what we have in our house. I don’t think anyone would look at our house and immediately think we are minimalists at all though. I will never be a person who has only 25 things, but I strive to live by the minimalist philosophy. I find that it is only when I am feeling vulnerable that I wish to acquire or hoard possessions–it is purely a reaction to something unrelated with which I am struggling.

I will not get rid of items that will prevent me from being hospitable–I want to be able to host friends and family for dinners and overnights. I will not get rid of things I truly enjoy (we had no hobby items overseas and we did miss them–no guitars or sewing machines, etc.). I will not get rid of things that make me happy, because some things do. But I don’t buy books unless I will reference them (we mostly only have cookbooks) and I try to prevent things from entering my house unless I actually need or really want them. I have an idea in my head of the life I want to support and if an item supports that life, to me it is fine to own.

And what of all the items still at my parents’? It is something that haunts me often. My husband still has things at his parents’ as well. For the wedding gifts, I will eventually move those into our home when the time is right. Some people claim china will never be used, but in my family china was used quite often and I am sure I will follow the example I was given. To me it is part of a life that will be about hospitality. As for the childhood items I left behind that I obviously no longer need or want, I am still working. I always give those things some attention on visits to my parents, but my visits are infrequent and short so I will need to set aside good time for dealing with those things. Fortunately for me, my parents are not minimalists and don’t seem to mind storing so much for me.

Ultimately, it is my faith that I find supports the quasi-minimalism I embrace. I remember hearing a story as a young child of Jesus telling a man to sell all of his possessions and follow Him. It seemed so scary to me–I couldn’t give up my doll! But there were many things that I could give up. My faith places great importance on hospitality and welcoming everyone to share a meal and to live in community. This is how my flavor of minimalism is formed–will what I own prevent me from following my faith, showing hospitality and living in community or will it support 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.}

26 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Kelley

  • I loved how you shared that becoming more of a minimalist aligned with your faith. A great post. I am a mom storing things for grown kids. Really, we want you to take them or get rid of them:)

  • Great story. Thanks for sharing. I really like that you are finding the right balance for you, not trying to follow just what someone else does. You seem to know what your values are and what possessions you need that are in line with those values. We have our kids take all their stuff when they graduate from college or get married since I also only want what we need at home. I figure that if they don’t care enough about their stuff to take it with them, then they really must not need it. Something to think about from the parent’s side. Thanks again for sharing!

  • Hi Kelley,

    You seem like such a wise and well balanced young woman. My favorite line in your post is this: “I find that it is only when I am feeling vulnerable that I wish to acquire or hoard possessions–it is purely a reaction to something unrelated with which I am struggling.”

    I think you hit the nail on the head! Not only does emotional buying clutter our space, but it costs us financially, too. By figuring out what you truly need to support your values and life direction, you also tend to grow your wealth.

    So many people can’t get that figured out in a lifetime; you and your husband are on a beautiful path~

  • This is one of my most favorite Real Life Minimalists posts yet. Thanks, Kelley!

  • Susan

    Like Ree, I was really struck by your insight about what makes you want to accumulate things. So important to know! I love the way your alligning your possessions with your values of hospitality, identity and happiness, and no more than that. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Layla

    You sound just like me! Except I’m not married and I live in Canada and a whole bunch of other things… but my parents keep everything and I have a lot of things at their place.

  • Thanks for sharing your story! I have lately been wanting to connect the minimalism story with faith, and I am glad to hear that you have done that. I also agree with you that one does not necessarily need to get rid of everything, but be able to keep things that are loved, used, appreciated, referenced. And finally, I moved 9 times from college dorms and apartments until I was married – within 6 years. I kept many things at my parents, too, mostly childhood things and some furniture. Sometimes, this kind of journey takes a longer process, but hopefully the process that is long-lasting.

  • Diane

    Thank you for your terrific post, Kelley. I too remember the scripture about Jesus telling the man to sell all his possessions. I was five when the priest covered that chapters and remember being devastated that I would have to give up my ballet shoes, tote bag and apparel! Like you, I have a nice collection of china (from my mom) and love to entertain. You’ve captured the spirit of minimalism — evaluating what you have and keeping the items you love and/or need.

    • Thank you, Diane. It sounds like we both had the same crisis about giving up our possessions!

      • Diane

        If you read previous Monday posts or even some of Miss Minimalist’s, I don’t know how some people can just give up everything or almost everything. I have furniture and beautiful porcelain that I inherited from my mother and both my grandmothers that I could never part with and intend one day to pass them pn to my only niece. I like being able to walk into each room and see something (or several things) that belonged to a loved one — such fond memories!

  • Steve

    I love this. I think minimalism definitely lines up with Christian teaching as well. Christ owned nothing and didn’t have a home. Now I may not go THAT far, but it shows us we shouldn’t need much to be content.

    • So true, Steve! It gives me something to try to live up to, even though it’s unlikely I’ll ever get that far. And like I said, I keep the things that I think will help me to live a life of generosity and hospitality. That’s what some of us are called to do–if everyone who had means gave it all up, there would be no one to offer that hospitality to those who had no means. Sometimes I need to remind myself that having great blessings means I need to share them with others and not just keep them to myself though!

    • Kathie

      Read John Dominic Crossan. He explains that at the time of Christ families had a small space where they slept and dressed in ONLY. Many families shared the same floor, separated by some sort of divider. They used communal bathrooms and ate communally.

  • Wonderful story and you can call yourself a minimalist because it is not about how many things you own but that you only own what brings you long term joy and what you need which is very much your philosophy. I believe the minimalist counting and other internet themes are more experiments than a definition. I do count certain items because I used to have very bad shopping habits so knowing I can only have 3 makeup brushes for example helps me from consuming more than I need and to be more self aware of my real needs when I do consider buying something new.

    I would get your things out of your parents’ home as soon as possible. It is not just occupying space but is also occupying your thoughts. Although your parents do not mind they will appreciate it. I felt ultimately lighter when family members removed their storage items from my home even though I had a larger home at that time.

  • Tina

    We have a small storage space in the basement of our building. My son came out of the Navy with a sea bag full of uniforms,etc. He lived with us for a while and now he shares his sister’s apartment. If we didn’t have the storage space, the sea bag would be in the way. Since we don’t see it for weeks on end it’s okay.

  • Tina

    We have some furniture that belonged to my MIL. Most of it is beautiful and useful. There are a few pieces I would pass on if I were to downsize. THen there are chairs from my mother. Again, if I were to downsize further, they would be gone. I think about what could go next. I started another bag for Goodwill. I had too many T shirts I used just for sleeping. 3 is just enough.

  • Tina

    I have a pile of things for Goodwill again. We just bought 2 things so a bag of stuff has to go. I also got my mom to give me some stuff to give away and some things to recycle. I watch the shows about Hoarders and it always makes me give more away.

  • Tina

    I have 4 piles of stuff to give away. More things for my son and DIL. I think there will always be some more stuff to get rid of. I really can’t remember buying anything new.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>