Real Life Minimalists: Manon

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, Manon tells us how minimalism saved her from the work-and-spend treadmill. Visit her blog to read more about her journey.

Manon writes:

Minimalism… Until about a year ago I never even heard of it. I mean, I knew about minimalistic art and design and found it to be utterly boring. I like colors, bold prints, wonderful fabrics! So, how did I fall in love with minimalism then? It’s a funny story really. Or, well, not really. But it has a very bright silver lining to it though! So stick with me.

About 2 years ago, I collapsed at work. Just dropped on the floor, totally blacked out for a moment. Turned out I was overworked. And not just overworked in the way that I needed a few days off to sleep a bit, regain some strength. Overworked as in the way of not being able to sleep at night, because all I could think about was my job and what would happen if I failed at it, overworked as in the way of not seeing my friends and family anymore, because all I did was work and after that I was too tired to do anything else. Overworked as in the way of yelling and screaming at my beloved boyfriend and my sweet feline friends about every little thing, because I was so tired and stressed out all of the time. Overworked as in not eating well anymore, because I had no time and energy to prepare meals. Overworked as in feeling like the only way I could make myself feel worthy and not like a total failure was by buying stuff, lots and lots of stuff…

So, that’s what I did, I bought stuff, and some more stuff, and some more. Shopping was like a drug to me. I would feel good for just a moment, but after that I would feel even worse than before. I’m pretty sure I was addicted to it. Until one day. It was about a year after I collapsed. I left my job after that horrible day, stayed home for a whole year, just to get a grip on reality again, to regain some energy, spirit and strength. After that year I felt ready. I didn’t knew for what, but I was ready for whatever would come my way. As I was browsing the Internet, I came across a weblog, called the Zen Habits. I started reading and a light went on. This was what I needed! To regain clarity of mind I needed to clear out my life!

So, I started right away. Not only did I deleted all phone numbers of people who where toxic to me, I also dropped all beauty products I needed to value myself. After that I went to my closet. Armed with a dozen trash bags I tackled all the clothing that I had that made me feel uncomfortable and/or didn’t fit my body or my personality. I felt so relieved, so… light! So my journey continued. I was reading every blog I could find about minimalism, including the wonderful Miss Minimalist, and I became more and more enthusiastic.

It has been a year now, and I feel better than ever. I don’t have to worry about stuff anymore and I regained my self worth by realizing that I am not my stuff. I still feel like I’m on a journey when it comes to minimizing my lifestyle and belongings, but isn’t the journey part of the fun? I think it is!

Looking back at before I made the chance that might have saved my life, I felt like the wheel was turning, but the hamster was long dead. I think I knew all along that my way of living wouldn’t make me happy, and I’m so thankful for discovering minimalism. It gave me back my life.

Maybe you would like to read more about me, my journey and other subject that spark my interest? You can visit my blog:

{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: Manon

  • Elizabeth

    I love this series of “profiles in minimalism,” and I find this story of Manon inspiring.

    It would really help me, and perhaps other readers, to know what featured minimalists do to earn money. For example, I would love to take a year off to regather strength, as Manon did — however, because I have a family to support, my first reaction is, “That’s not possible for me.” I welcome creative solutions and ideas.

    Would it be possible for each profile of a minimalist to include a brief description of the ways they continued to support themselves financially? Otherwise, it’s not relevant to me and a host of others.

  • Manon, glad your life is in this sweet spot now! Sounds like your journey is sooooo much better. (Like your blog BTW!)

  • Andrew

    @ Elizabeth – this is an excellent point. When there was an article on minimalism in The Huffington Post, there were hundreds of comments pointing out that, often, people who CHOSE minimalism had often been previous high earners. In fact, this is definitely the case with one of ‘The Minimalists’ who had previously earned a six-figure salary. My wife and I are mortgage-free, have shunned retail pursuits and grow a lot of vegetables. However, we still have to pay Council Tax (we live in the UK), gas, electric, etc. so still need to work, albeit in less stressful jobs than previously.

  • Elizabeth, thank you for finding my story inspiring. I can tell you a bit about how I was able to took the time off. I live in the Netherlands and around here, when you’re sick, you get to go on disability payment. So while I was sick and getting better, the state continued paying 70% of my previous salary. Right now, while still on disability payment, I’m going back to college (which I pay for myself) to get a degree, so my future job while be more suitable for my personality, minimizing the chance of me getting burned out again. I wouldn’t be able to take the time off if it wasn’t for the disability payment.

    Vintagekaren, thank you for liking my blog :D Yes, my journey is going very well at this moment. I feel really happy and blessed!

    Andrew, I wasn’t a previous high earner, I was a bit more on the low side to be honest. But trough minimalism I learned that I don’t a lot of money to be happy. I don’t need all the stuff I thought I needed.

    Note: In the Netherlands it’s a law that, when you’re sick, you get disability payment.

  • I can relate a bit to Manon’s story. Working stressful jobs and long hours can take a big toll on you mentally and physically, which tends to lead to stagnation or even destruction of other areas of your life.

    While having to go on disability to get the time off is not the best method, at least you are using the time to really “clean house” and I mean that in a multitude of ways! Good for you.

    Don’t ignore your photography as a possible source of income. I went to your site before leaving a comment here and your images are beautiful. You should check out Darren Rowse, the creator of He’s the first professional blogger I started following over a year ago and he also has a site related to photography. By the way, he rakes in the bucks on that site. Check it out and you’ll see why.

    A note to @Elizabeth: It’s easy to think that only people who are high wage-earners have the opportunity to take time off. The truth is it’s not how much you make but how much you spend that counts. If you sit down with your husband (or just yourself) and write down what you truly value (not goals, but values) and then focus your money on supporting your values, you’ll find that you, too, can take time off if that is what you value.

    I’m not trying to be harsh, but it’s too easy to just think that a good life (defined by you) is only attainable by others. It’s not. But it takes digging deep, getting honest with yourself and being willing to control your own actions to make it happen.

    I wish you all the joy and happiness life has to offer! Go get it!

  • Congrats to you on your simplicity makeover! I really enjoyed visiting your blog as well. Incredible that it took one short year for the turnaround. I have been on a two year journey to simplify…I have gone all out but still have a ways to go!

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks, Manon, for the answer — “I wouldn’t be able to take the time off if it wasn’t for the disability payment.”

    Rhee, your comments — “It’s easy to think that only people who are high wage-earners have the opportunity to take time off. The truth is it’s not how much you make but how much you spend that counts” — are true within limits. Unless one is willing to go on the dole, there’s a certain level of income that has to be maintained. In Manon’s case, the Dutch govt provided it.

    I was asking if the minimalists profiled in this series would be willing to include some discussion of how they earn money to live.

    • kathy


      I agree with you completely. I am just starting to lead a more minimalist lifestyle, but quitting my job is not an option, because I have a son who will be going to college next year. One of the biggest things about minimalism seems to be not having any debt, so in order to keep him out of college debt, I’ve got to continue to work, as does my husband. And yes, I could cancel cable TV or my cell phone and cut back on monthly expenses, but I’d still be working to help pay for his college costs.

      I am all about not letting consumerism run my life. I am saying no to more and more things these days more so because I don’t want to cloud my life with junk rather than to get out of debt or quit my job and travel the world. For those who have done so and are able to continue doing that, I think that’s great. But I often wonder about about practical things like health insurance. I mean, what if you get a serious illness? At least in the US, you’re on the hook to pay. What then?

      I digress.

      I too would like to see more discussion about the practical side of minimalism.

  • Theena

    I have to say – and no offence is meant – armed with a bit more background to this story as we are now, I do think it is one of the more, shall we say, ‘controversial’…

  • mrs Brady Old Lady

    Manon where on earth did you get 50€ for your old books? I went to the Slegte and they just looked down their nose. I go to a shop in Brussels (where I live) and they really don’t give very much (so I give a lot of books to Oxfam)

    Everybody else – yes, very interesting point. Wherever we live, we still have bills to pay, so quite a few of us HAVE to work. I have serious health issues and without a proper work-related health insurance I’d be in deep doodoo, so I hang on in quiet desperation (PF). Thank goodness I’m a minimalist so am able to save some money. I shudder to think I’d be a hoarder like in those American programmes who are in deep debt because they spend all their money on trinkets.

    BTW, I didn’t check them out, but Niall Doherty’s blog included regular updates on his financial situation.

  • Such a lovely story. Thanks for sharing, Manon!

    To everyone talking about the taking time off question, a few thoughts:

    1) You can certainly get health insurance on your own in the US (without an employer) if you choose. When I first started my business and needed to keep costs super low while living in the US, I got what was basically emergency insurance – a $5,000 deductible where I paid my own costs all year, but was covered just in case things went crazy. It was only about $40 per month. I get this isn’t an option for everyone (I’m relatively young and healthy), but wanted to throw it out there for anyone who is seriously daunted by the health insurance thing, but would really like to take some time.

    2) If you are looking for resources about saving for your dreams (be it the dream of taking a year off or something else), the folks at wrote a lovely practical little book called Dream, Save, Do.

    3) Taking a year off probably isn’t as expensive as you’d think. And there are lots of options for lowering expenses even more if you need the time to heal, including housesitting instead of renting, using public transport instead of owning a car, etc. Just depends what you’re willing to change, do, or live without. :)

  • Ree Klein, thank you for your kind words and the blog! I’ll be visiting it.

    Ree Klein and Theena, thank you for your comment, but I do have to add that going on disability might be ‘controversial’ and not the best method, but I didn’t willingly choose to be on disability. It’s something I was ordered to do by a industrial medical officer. I don’t like being on disability, but I’m making the best out of it by using this chance to make a better future for myself.

    Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce, thank you very much for visiting my blog :D

    Kathy, I understand that in the US it’s a whole lot different than around here, in the Netherlands. College is cheaper, health insurance is something you NEED to have and according to your salary you get a certain amount of money to help you pay for the health insurance, your rent and your children. I don’t get a lot of money and I didn’t got a lot money either when I was still working, but I always managed to stay out of debt by managing my money closely.

    Mrs Brady Old Lady, I went to ‘t Ezelsoor in Amersfoort. You can make an appointment in advance and tell the guy what kind of books you have to offer.

    Gigi, I don’t know an awful lot about US health insurance, but I pay around 130 Euro a month for health insurance. I rent a house, I have an insurance in case of a fire and theft, I don’t drive a car, I take public transportation to college (which, in the Netherlands, is usually free when you’re a student). I pay my own school books, I pay my own tuition, I pay my own trips abroad. Before I got sick, I worked for 7 years. Disability payment is something EVERYONE IN THE NETHERLANDS, who meets certain guidelines, has a right to get. It’s not something you choose for, you only get it when you are really too sick to work. And I know I’m very blessed for such a good system and for getting the chance to study to have a better future.

    • kathy

      Manon, I want to move to where you live! And the people in America poo poo because we’re not socialist. Not to start a political debate, but you get so much from the government; I wish we had the same setup.

      • Diane

        They probably have high income tax rates. I know socialist countries that have free health care, education, etc. like Denmark and Sweden pay approx 65% income tax. In Canada, we have free health insurance and pay (depending on salary) between 15% and 25% in income tax. The US has probably the lowest income tax but pay a fortune for health insurance.

        • According to KPMG’s website, American income tax rate is 39.6% and the UK is 45%. Netherlands 52% and Sweden 56.6%. So, some quite big differences (although not as much as I thought!) I know for the UK you can earn about £10K per year and pay no income tax, and the top rate of 40% only applies on earnings over £150K. I think all of the percentages given are the top rate of tax…it would be interesting to know what the average percentage income tax paid per country is, which might explain why many European countries have ‘free’ healthcare, and the US does not.

          Or, is it an ideological thing rather than a money thing? (I remember lots of negative stuff being said about the NHS when Obama was trying to reform healthcare, not all of it about the cost).

          • Diane

            Just not income tax to consider. US max is 39% but most states have low to o% sales tax. UK max is 50% (and higher depending on criteria) with sales tax at 17.5%. This could explain why so many British actors now live in the US!

  • Gil

    Very inspiring, Manon..Thank you :)

  • cynthia

    Like you, I don’t own a TV, love to cycle, don’t know or care much about the entertainment world and have to tolerate the inevitable gasps. I also don’t care for motorized vehicles, travel and love to read. I’m a vegetarian and own few possessions. Although my story comes from a different path, at 50, I finally feel like me (after raising 3 kids am are out of the nest). I seek experiences and find contentment in long walks, nature and letting the hustle and bustle go by. I’ve never owned a cell phone and don’t plan on it. It’s nice to know there are intelligent people like you living as your authentic self before knowing the label “minimalism”. Thank you for letting us know there are others like us out there.

  • Manon, your transformation story is engaging, especially when you discuss the role of buying more and more stuff to fill an overwhelmingly busy life with a bit of joy, even if momentarily.

    Substituting stuff, seems to be at the root of so much unhappiness, and that sorrow often grows with each new purchase. Maybe exceptions, though, are tools that connect us with the arts and movement: musical instruments, pens and paint, a good pair of running shoes…those things that lead us back to authentic passion, as opposed to object joy.

    Thanks for the links to Zen Habits and your own blog.

  • Tina

    Good for you stepping back from your life. I find my life so full, I don’t know how I ever found time to work.

  • Tina

    When we took early retirement, we had to take it by 12/31. Our youngest was not quite finished with college. We both took part time jobs and used our savings until our pensions-40 o/o of our earnings started. It was a hard 4-5 months but worth it. We had always lived below our means and it really paid off. Today, I was browsing in the jewelry departments of some mall stores. I am so used to getting everything second-hand the prices seemed outrageous. I just put more in the recycling and have more to give away.

  • Tina

    I retired at 53 and my husband was 55. We were offered a buyout and we took it. We had always lived on 1/2 of our pay. 1/4 paid for whoever was in college, 1/4 went into savings and the rest we lived on. The thing that enabled us to live on 40 0/0 of our pay was that our former employer was going to provide health care. Looking back, we retired in 2002 and worked part time. We could have sent our kids to junior colleges and then state schools. Instead, both boys went to expense private schools and lived on campus. My daughter, who is 38 is just now finishing a program at a junior college. My older son got his MA paid for, the younger joined the NAVY to pay for his MA. If your health and sanity depend on changing your arrangements, you do the best you can.

  • We always lived in a small house near a park and a public swimming pool. We now live next to a huge public library and a train and bus station. In the US, too many people buy the biggest house they can afford. Or the fanciest car. We have 1 small TV in a very small den. We never had fancy furniture, any real jewelry I have was inherited or bought second hand. When my daughter got married, we gave her a cash gift to spend on the wedding and gave our sons the same amount. One had a fancy rehearsal dinner and one is using his towards buying a home. We were not put on earth to shop but to make the world better.

  • Tina

    Last week we were at a state park. As always, I brought a bag to fill with litter I picked up. Some kids asked what I was doing and I said wherever I go, I try to leave the place cleaner and they started picking up garbage. If you are bored or depressed, find a mission to make the world a better place.

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