Real Life Minimalists: Samantha

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 Samantha.

Samantha writes:

I’m 43 next week and for the last 20 years I have asked myself the question before making a purchase, will this make my life better?

There is a problem with answer in that I have a lot of hobbies. See, I’ve been single for 20 years and 5 years in, I asked myself, what if this is it and I never meet that someone? So my answer to that was, I had better make sure I have a damned good life! And I have. I sew, screen print, reupholster furniture, take photos, crochet and I love taking my friends out and treating them. All this on working 22 hours a week (and I study too).

Many years ago I also asked myself, what is my purpose in life? And the answer was, to build and have great relationships and I have. I have the best life but I often feel that my desire for things is endless. I don’t buy jewellery or clothes (mostly second hand and only a couple of times a year) but I would love a thermomix as I have multiple food allergies and have to make most things myself, I buy plants because I love gardening, books because I love reading, fabric to sew up, movie tickets ’cause that’s all about having a better life and I buy presents justified by sharing the love! When will it end?

I really want to stop buying any of it but I keep letting myself because these things really do enhance the quality of my life. Now I’d like a new sewing machine (second hand of course, I don’t care for new things) because my old one just isn’t stitching as well as it used to even after a service. And I’d like a gym membership to stay fit when it’s too miserable outside to go on my 6km daily walk.

What should I do? I just don’t know when it will stop. If I get my Thermomix, gym membership and sewing machine I’m sure I’ll think of something else I’ll want to play with that I’ve managed to live without thus far.

The stories on the Miss Minimalist site really inspire me and I think with the right justification I can stop buying anything other than food but honestly, I’m finding it difficult. Any suggestions are appreciated.

{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: Samantha

  • Steve

    I’m in a similar situation. I am 31 and still single, and have a high income. So I’m just trying to have fun and experience things while I’m “free”. And I have some expensive hobbies, including photography, travel, and backpacking. My feeling is… if it adds to your happiness, and you use it reguarly, then buy it. Minimalism doesn’t mean denying yourself things you want/need. It means getting rid of clutter and living efficiently so you CAN do the things you want. I tend to buy stuff, then get rid of it when I get bored of a hobby. Just keep a process of only keeping things around that you actually use/need on a regular basis and cleanse the rest out of your life. Enjoy :)

  • Don’t forget that all the things you buy which enrich your life are also enriching the lives of those who make a living making, marketing and selling them! ‘Buying wisely’ is my motto, not ‘Not buying’. Hate to say it but money does make the world go around – it’s only a means of exchange after all.

  • sumarie

    Hi Samantha,

    What a great life you’ve carved out for yourself! I think the idea behind minimalism is not about how few things you can own, but about how to jettison objects that don’t mean anything to you anymore. I say — buy the Thermomix if you can easily afford it, for example, but when you notice you’re not using it anymore, that’s the time to pass it on. Same with any of your “things”. The idea behind life is to LIVE it — and “things” can enhance the living of it — especially creating and enjoying & then letting go.

  • Anne

    Samantha, your post really resonated with me. I quilt and last year, after much agonising, bought myself a new and expensive sewing machine. I buy fabric for my quilts, though only what I need and I always try to use what I’ve already got. No stash-building. I enjoy carefully-chosen TV programmes and DVDs and when I retired I replaced my 20-year-old TV set. I love reading and buy books (though usually 2nd hand and then they generally get passed on to someone else or to the charity shop). I buy clothes when I need them – and try not to have more than I actually need – I want them all to be worn regularly. I eat simply and healthily and try never to waste food – I shop day by day, and don’t do big supermarket shops.
    I’ve only come to minimalism/simplicity in my late 50s and can live off the fat of the land – all the stuff I already have – for quite a while.I’ve decluttered a lot, keeping only what will definitely get used. I think it’s a totally individual thing. If what you buy, whether it’s a thermomix, craft supplies or cinema tickets, enhances your life, doesn’t put you in debt and will be used and enjoyed to the full, why not? For me the key is thinking about every acquisition, avoiding the stuff which is marginal to my life, which is an unneeded extra or which will only be used briefly then discarded without further thought. Others are much purer minimalists than I am – that’s what works for them. It’s finding a balance that gives you a rich and satisfying, well-thought-out life that is right for you.

  • Rebecca ladd

    Relax! Not everyone can or should fit their life into a backpack. You’re doing just fine. In no way could you be considered a crazy consumer. You’re not Mother Theresa! Just a human trying to live a fulfilling and healthy life.

  • cynthia

    I think you need to ask yourself 2 things. Do you REALLY enjoy crafting, sewing, photography, etc or are you just doing them to have something to do…to keep occupied. Or, do you really want to experience things like getting healthier, doing more with friends, being more active, traveling, etc, but feel that you don’t have anyone to do them with or talk your self out of them. If you are a homebody and love nesting and doing the things you listed, then enjoy them with no guilt. However, if you are using them for a substitute for a new lifestyle or someway you really want to live but have a roadblock preventing that, do some soul searching to find out why and go for it. I sold everything I own at age 50 and reinvented a new lifestyle to match my suddenly emptynest after single parenting for 12 years, and all those things that I thought I enjoyed doing, I couldn’t wait to shed to do what I do now. I live car free, bike all over, travel and enjoy books, movies and baking at home. A few simple things that don’t get in the way of an active lifestyle. No right or wrong answer, just reflect. Good luck.

  • I’ve never subscribed to the “You must only own 100 things or 33 pieces of clothing” rules. That’s fine for some people, but we are all different. Some people might find Nirvana with 1 chair, 1 table and a laptop in a room, other people would feel the soul had been sucked out of the place.

    Like you I craft. A couple of months ago I looked at my stash of fabric, yarn and patterns and it hit me that I would never,ever, ever in my life time have the time or even the inclination to make up clothes from all the patterns and fabric, nor would I ever be able to knit or crochet the miles and miles of yarn I had accumulated. So I began the process of letting go and have been doing so ever since. Now I am not feeling overwhelmed anymore, there is space to move and breathe, I’ve kept a couple of balls of yarn and when I crochet I am truly enjoying the creative process, taking it slowly and savoring it.

    Also like you I am realizing the importance of great friendships/relationships.

  • Hi Samantha ~

    If you’ve been asking yourself questions like “will this enhance the quality of my life?” and “will this make my life better?” you are way ahead of the game. Most people just have desires (or fears) they’re trying to abate and consider only whether they can afford the monthly payment. Based on the fact that you are also asking “when will this all end?” and you work just 22 hours/wk, I’m guessing that you are in debt and worried about that. If I’m right, here are some things to consider doing while you are also figuring out how minimalism will work in your life:

    1. Figure out what you truly value. It sounds like you are pretty clear on a lot of it, but write it down. These are statements of how you want your life to be, not goals that can be checked off.
    2. Write down every penny you spend and track your spending by category (groceries, hobbies, utilities, auto fuel, gifts, dining out, etc.).
    3. At the end of the month (every month) total up what you’ve spent by category. Then really look at how much of your income each category consumes. For each one, ask yourself “is this spending in alignment with my values and appropriate in context with everything else?
    4. If you are in debt, focus all your attention on getting out of debt. If you have to live without the thermomix for awhile to do it, well, you’ve lived without it this long. Debt is a killer and you should torch it before it puts you in jeopardy.
    5. Create an emergency fund of a few months of income.
    6. Set some savings goals and after any debt is gone, commit to saving a certain percent of your income each paycheck to meet those goals.

    I agree with so much of what the other commenters have said…minimalism is personal and different for each person, money is a tool, and you don’t have to be Mother Theresa. But there is a reason you wrote this post and while at the surface you seem to have it all figured out, you need to peel back the layers to understand what it is that is really bothering you. I have a hunch that as you are growing older, you’re realizing that the pattern you’ve developed isn’t working for you and you are worried about the security of your future. Please let me know if I’m wrong…it’s just that you sound similar to me and being a nearly 12 years farther along in life, that’s what I found to be true for me.

    I wish you much success and happiness on your journey.

  • Diane

    Great post Samantha! You are on the right track. Buy the things that you need to enrich your life and discard what you no longer want or need. Whenever I buy something new, I usually give away something. When I move in the next few years, I’ll need furniture and dishes, etc.; however, I hope to be able to purchase these with the money I make from selling all furnishings in my condo. In minimalism, there’s nothing wrong with buying, just ensure that it enriches your life and let go of the guilt. Best of luck!

  • Michelle

    I can so relate to your post! Most people do not take the time to think about this at all so you are difinately on the right path.
    About a year ago I woke up from the nightmare of consumerism and became an aspiring minimalist. One of the things that I’ve stuggled with is what to keep/buy in the future for my hobbies. It was tough because some items I spent quite a lot of money on, especially for my repurposed jewelry, but in the end I just told myself it’s time to make a fresh start. I love to cook, read, travel and do yoga. My hobbies are now based more on experiences, not on creating or collecting physical objects.

  • I don’t know if this helps or not, but my lifestyle and creative muse are one in the same—minimalism. For me, minimalism is the intentional promotion of my greatest passions and the removal of everything that distracts me from them.

    With that in mind, I enjoy the beauty of a wabi-sabi life; a lifestyle where inessentials are trimmed away.

    Believing that minimalism resides at the intersection where wabi (minimal) and sabi (functional) meet, I live a beautiful life with fewer things—simple, yet full.

    Laurie Buchanan

  • Tala

    Minimalism is not necessarily about not shopping at all. After all, unless we can weave our own fabrics, we can’t make out own clothes (knitting excepted!). No, for me minimism is about shopping less and wisely.

  • Jason

    Thanks for your very open and courageous post.

    These are some books that have changed my life:

    Living Beautifully: Identity and activities can be a defense to avoid being present with one’s own groundlessness.
    Give and Take: The happiest people and the unhappiest people are givers. The difference between them is that happy givers don’t give to takers.
    When the Body Says No: Being nice can actually kill you.
    Your Money or Your Life: How to improve your relationship with money.
    Anticancer: Avoiding sugar is essential to avoiding cancer.

    Best of luck.


  • Michele

    You have a full and wonderful life. That’s how it should be not about the number of items you own. If you enjoy your hobbies and they aren’t taking over every square inch of your living space then continue to do the things you love. I found when I purchased a Thermomix 2 years ago I was able to get rid of other kitchen appliances, my way of cooking changed too so I unloaded a lot of kitchen items that weren’t utilised. Minimalism is going to look different for everyone.

  • Elizabeth

    There is so much wisdom in the comments, I hesitate to add anything — a minimalist approach to commenting, LOL!

    However, I think Ree raised valid points about debt. Being debt-free is the ticket to happiness, IMO. If you are — then I applaud you and your analytical approach to buying. If you aren’t, I really recommend Ree’s strategy (and her wonderful blog).

    For me, a woman who has recently struggled to come to terms with how much stuff is enough, no matter HOW much I love it–your post struck a chord.

    I also wanted to comment on your gift-giving. I am a very generous person who gave gifts to everyone. I delighted in taking friends and family to dinners, giving expensive and thoughtful gifts, always showing up with a special present for a special person. I realize now, I was trying to buy love and friendship. I’m not saying this is true for you — but for me, I had to step back and realize I was buying gifts for others to fill a hole in my own life. I still have to rein in this impulse all the time.

    • Hi Elizabeth ~

      Thank you so much for the kind words about my blog. I’m certainly not perfect, but I have learned a few things along my journey. Blogging helps to keep me focused on my own goals while trying to help others.

      It’s nice to know someone is reading!


  • I don’t think there’s any problem with buying things you really use on a regular basis. Some might consider my stand mixer to be just “stuff” but because I have my family gets to eat homemade bread, pizza crust, etc. a lot more often. On the other hand, despite being a bookworm, I rarely buy books now – only reference items I feel I will get a ton of use out of. Otherwise I check them out from the library. So I think for each thing you “want” you should try to see if there’s another realistic way you can get the same benefit. Realistically checking nearly all my books out from the library works. Kneading whole wheat bread by hand for 20 minutes regularly…not gonna happen.

  • Linda Sand

    Minimalism is not about having the fewest things; it is about having the right things. It sounds to me like you are doing this very well indeed. I would buy the thermomix because your health is everything. I would look for plant exchanges to reduce the plants I buy. And I get free books from for my e-reader. None of that is huge but it all helps move you towards your goal.

  • Wow, excellent post. I feel the same way too. Plenty of hobbies and my line of work, piano teaching, takes lots of space too, I guess it is a trial and error approach when we have so many creative joys and yet the minimalism journey challenges that. I’m learning not be ruled by guilt and take the minimalism journey a step at a time as I can’t be throwing out the sewing machine, music instruments, arts supplies and piano all at once!

  • Hello Samatha,

    In my world I live by the quote: Extremes are easy. Strive for balance.

    Minimalism should be something that enhances your life and makes you see problems and challenges in another light. You know the perspectives of minimalism and the material world. I combine the best of the two worlds. I sure do buy stuff that enhance my life but I’m also aware that the spending does not make me happy. I say combine the best of two worlds :-)

    Anders Hasselstrøm
    Motivational speaker

  • Tina

    I like that minimalism is different for each of us. It always involves choices. I have many more craft related items to pass on. I gave up fabric, beads, yarn, etc. and just kept the instructions. Now I realize I have instructions enough for 2 lifetimes. I am giving away craft magazines and books and just copying articles. Your contributors give me food for thought.

  • Tina

    Right now, I am mostly drawing and getting rid of a lot of my paper crafting supplies. What I’ve noticed is that my hobbies change and grow as I change and grow. As long as I haven’t stocked up more than one bin full for each hobby or as Miss M calls a module, when I lose interest, it isn’t hard to get rid of the things I’ve bought. Some people have rooms devoted to a craft like quilting or card making and a lot more money invested.

  • Tina

    I get most of my craft supplies used. I find them at thrift stores or rummage sales or sometimes garage sales. There isn’t much I need, and most of what I have is used. I pass around a great deal of my things to friends and take it to the library or the park district when I’m done.

  • Tina

    I saw instructions for adorable felt animals. Am I really ever going to make them? I also saw a pattern for a shawl. I have 2 shawls which I wear maybe 3 or 4 times a year. Again, I will keep the instructions, but not buy the materials. 1 piece of paper takes much less space than skeins of yarn, pieces of felt, wire for armatures, etc.

  • Tina

    I have a stack of books and magazines to give away. My grandsons are older so I told them to pull out the books which were too easy for them and I would give them away. Now I have 4 piles of things to give away. And there are more things to pass on.

  • Tina

    I just found 10 more books to give away. A few days ago, I gave away a stack of books and magazines. I have enough craft instructions. I have been using odds and ends of yarn to wrap gifts. I use and reuse second hand wrapping paper for kids’ gifts. Adults get money, food, or a charity donation. I used to collect jewelry, but recently I have been giving away what I don’t wear. A cousin was delighted to get two pairs of earrings, a friend got 3 necklaces.

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