Real Life Minimalists: Kayla

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, I’m happy to introduce you to Kayla, who’s discovering the joys of minimalism at quite a young age. What a wonderful way to start out in life!

Kayla writes:

Kayla

My name is Kayla, and I’m a junior in high school.

Just three years ago, I couldn’t see the bottom of the floor in my closet. I had a dresser full of clothes, and a separate dresser for my other things, along with a school desk full of stuff, a loft bed, and things piling up on shelves and behind the t.v, and posters and doodles taped all over the walls. Since then, I’ve gotten rid of the clothes that I don’t wear, gotten rid of all the trinkets and toys, doodles and charms, along with my t.v, loft bed, my extra dresser and everything in it, my school desk, and countless other things. I have a mattress on the floor, a dresser, a radio, a fan, a mirror, the clothes in my closet, my CD’s and records, and my portfolio and art supplies.

I couldn’t stand the sight of anything I had. I couldn’t focus on anything unless everything was clean and orderly. But even with everything in it’s place, it still looked cluttered. Instead of doing schoolwork, I cleaned and organized things, or would get distracted by the t.v. I frequently purged my things in short, small sessions, getting rid of school papers and a couple shirts, but it was never anything on a large scale. I felt satisfied momentarily.

I had a problem, and still do, with looking for things to want. I’d frequent garage sales and thrift stores, the mall and art shows, looking for something that I could get with whatever amount of money that I had. Most of those things strayed from things that I needed, I looked for what was appealing over everything else. My parents have only contributed to the habit, as they’ve recently been creating recycled art projects. My mom will bring home garbage bags full of cigar boxes or a couple old t.v’s, old records, anything she finds. It piles up everywhere with all the art supplies. And my sister (13) is no better. She has hundreds of items of clothing all over her floor (most of which she hasn’t worn in ages or even at all) which sometimes accompanies unopened food or drinks, toiletries, pictures, dolls, school supplies and countless papers. Her floor is sticky, and her room is still messy even when she cleans it. The rest of my family is far from being at all minimalist. We have four couches in the ~200 square foot basement, two in the 10 x 10 living room, and triple the amount of dishes and silverware that we should have as a family of four.

I have an obsession with cleaning and organizing spaces, and have on a couple occasions, cleaned other people’s houses without their asking while I was staying there. I like to clean, because it’s satisfying to see the end result, it feels good. But I’d rather have time to do more fulfilling things, like focusing on creating art.

In an ironic way, I was shopping online for clothes, and came across a piece called “Minimalist Jacket” and decided to look into minimalism. It seemed so much more fulfilling than what I had. I love modern design, and the clean-ness of it. That’s when I came across “Miss Minimalist,” and read about your lifestyle. I was mad that I hadn’t thought of minimalism before. Inspired, I decided to get rid of the mess entirely. One by one, I got rid of everything I didn’t need. Even some things that were sentimental. It was surprisingly easy to get rid of I feel so much better having made such a difference- at least in my room.

I’m definitely not an extremist. I certainly have things that I could live without, like the 70 something CDs that I own, the records, nail polish, incense, jewelry, antique Alice In Wonderland playing cards, and probably a lot of my clothes. But these are things that that make me somewhat happy. Music inspires emotion and creativity in me, but the other things don’t seem as justified, as far as priority and requirement.

I’ve only begun the process, and I hope to spread it to everyone living around me. It’s so much easier to focus, I can keep myself where I need to be going.

I’ve become more efficient with my money, and healthier mentally. I know my priorities, and I can relax. I feel that I’ve improved myself, and I’m excited to see what I can do with 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.}

Related posts:

  1. Real Life Minimalists: A Working Rachel
  2. Real Life Minimalists: Jenna Ann
  3. Real Life Minimalists: Jesse

24 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Kayla

  • pinkangelgirl

    This is one of the most inspiring real life minimalist stories I’ve read. I just love it when young people find this out sooner than later. The possiblilities are endless and the inpact immense! Kayla it sounds like you are a natural minimalist at heart. Thankyou for sharing and i wish you all the best in this amazing journey called minimalism.

  • Claire

    Thanks Kayla. Am so happy that you’re able to live for what matters to you.

  • Brent

    I wish i could write like that when i was in middle school.

  • Em

    This is some really awesome reading, way to go! :) I wonder, Kayla, what your parents and family had to say about your new lifestyle of “throwing stuff out”? ‘Cause my story was similar and even though I didn’t go as far as getting rid of my bed, I did let go of many things and it was really difficult to hide the energy and enthusiasm about getting rid of everything unneccesary, so my family of hamsters who keep pretty much everything for “just in case” or “because I paid money for it and it’s still usable” (paid thirty years ago, haven’t used it in last five or more) had little understanding and thought I was getting insane :D

    I haven’t figured out the way to change their thinking yet and I’m not sure how to approach them about it ’cause even when I took the liberty of decluttering few drawers and storage spaces myself and even if they did look much better and become more usable, they’re just not getting the message, I guess. They don’t want to change anything even if they can see the change is for good, not even if I say I’ll help them ’cause I already know how to get over that “don’t know where to start” moment or feeling too overwhelmed.

    I’m really looking for some reading about how somebody managed to get their resistant family to accept that lifestyle as well ’cause I’ve tried several things and failed, especially my mum still keeps on buying junk that she doesn’t need, just because it was nice and quite cheap.

    Also I’d like to hear more about how exactly did you get rid of your stuff. I found out that even when I spend a lot of time on internet, I suck at selling stuff online, especially clothes. But still I feel quite wrong about donating all of it as I’m not really that rich and could use to get something back. Any tips and tricks?

    • mrs Brady Old Lady

      Em, I go to car boot fayres (jumble sales) (yard sales?) once or twice a year and sell my stuff there.
      You don’t get that much money but at least you have a lot of fun, learn how to deal with people, get rid of a lot of stuff, and make people even worse off than myself very very happy.

  • kathy

    Kayla, good for you! I’m so glad to read that you realized this at such a young age. There is no need to get rid of EVERYTHING that brings you some sort of joy, just the stuff the pulls you down, which it sounds like that’s what you did. Keep it up, and don’t let your family cause you to backslide.

    Em, I can’t yet speak to the task of getting my family to go along with me, because I’m still working on that. I just wanted to give you a different way of thinking about letting go of old clothes. I recently cleaned out my winter closet and decided to consign some of the better pieces of clothing. The store I took them to only wanted 4 pieces, and I’d need another 6 more to start a contract with them, which I didn’t have. So I decided that I’d rather donate my things to Goodwill so that someone who might really be in need of nice clothes can get them at a good price. The way I see it, my time is more valuable than the very small dollar return I’d get if I sold my clothes on ebay or had to run back and forth to a consignment store. Plus, I’m ultimately sharing my good fortune with others when I donate them. I hope that helps.

  • I have thoughts for Kayla and Em.

    Kayla, you are such a breath of fresh air! The fact that you could see what wasn’t working for you and had the strength to do something different is going to serve you well your entire life. Being able to examine our own habits and the habits of those around us and DO SOMETHING with that information is a profound talent.

    I think you could start an “organizing/decluttering” business. It fits your interests and would help others. It’s a great way for you to earn an income and maybe you’ll never have to work for someone else your whole life. You are also a very skilled writer as Brent pointed out. You can create your own information products for young people who are living at home with families who are…well…hoarders. That’s another way for you to express your art and talents. I’m sure you would have a huge following.

    Now a few words for Em who commented above…

    Hi Em, in your comment you said “I haven’t figured our the way to change their thinking yet…” That made me sad because I tried for many, many years to get my mother to see a different way to live. I call her a hoarder, she calls herself a “conscientious saver of stuff.” Either way, the end result is the same. A huge mess. My mother is nearly 80 now and needs a lot of help. She still lives on her own but we’re trying to move her closer so I can help her more. She finally sees that she can’t keep all her things and is starting to part with some of them but there is a very long way to go.

    I guess my message to you is to not try to change your family because you’ll spend a lot of your precious time beating your head against a wall. They will only change when they feel a need to change. The best you can do is to love them for who they are, be around them only when it works for you and be a good example.

    Hugs to you both,
    Ree

    • Kelly Anderson

      I agree with Ree. There is nothing more annoying than someone finding a new way of life, whether becoming a vegetarian, quitting smoking or joining a religious organisation, and then trying to impose their beliefs/changes on others. Let your family find their own way and family get-togethers will be more enjoyable and less frustrating.

  • Oh, I had one other comment for Em. Check out thredUP.com for selling your gently-used clothes. I haven’t sold or purchased anything from them but I discovered the site via Alexa who writes at http://www.SingleMomsIncome.com. She speaks highly of them and after checking out the site, I would definitely give them a try. Good luck!

    Ree

  • Kelly Anderson

    Looks like my comments were deleted by the reviewer, let’s try again. I am afraid that some of this minimalism is a little too extreme to be simply called minimalism. Some people can become a little obsessed with their decluttering not knowing when to stop. Neither extreme is healthy!

    • Jeannine

      Such inspiration and wisdom coming from such a young woman. Life is truly about other things besides “stuff”. Of course some things are necessary to function, but you certainly don’t require as much as what we have been fed by commercials, magazines, tv, etc. Congratulations on setting yourself free.

      Btw Kelly, everyone’s idea of minimalism is personal. It’s a matter of one’s comfort with what they want to possess.

  • Kayla

    For Em, I didn’t really have a hard time getting rid of clothes. I ended up donating a lot of the clothes to the Salvation Army, about 3 or 4 bags. I picked out specific pieces of clothing that I thought I could sell, but it proved futile, so I ended up donating them, or gave them to friends. Do a garage sale if you’re able, if you really need the money, or take them to a store that will pay for designer brands, like Plato’s Closet. For things that weren’t clothes, I just asked myself why I still had [whatever that item was] and if it wasn’t meaningful enough, it went away. Another trick that I’ve heard of, on this site actually, was to take something out of a room and hide it, and if they didn’t notice, it didn’t mean very much to them.

    As for my family, my mom said that she wished that the rest of the house was as bare as my room was, and I told them that they could make it that way. My mom even went and told me that she was going to try to clean her room like I did mine, but getting rid of everything wasn’t a one-day process.

    I’ve been reading another minimalist blog, The Minimalists, who have proposed a minimalist game, to get rid of 1 thing on the first day, 2 things on the second day, 3 things on the third day, so on and so forth. ( http://www.theminimalists.com/game/ ) I plan to introduce the game to my family when my parents return from their vacation. If it goes anywhere or not, It will still make a difference, and perhaps persuade them to think differently about their material possessions, and themselves as a people.

    As a last reflection, becoming minimalist has begun a thought process of how material things affect our mentality and personality. Things are tools, and sometimes necessary, but we should not let them define who we are. I don’t think that it just involves getting rid of things either, it should reflect our personality. It also involves being meaningful with conversation, being careful with decisions and money, behaving benevolently towards others, and purging any pessimistic or hopeless thoughts. All in all, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s made me very happy, personally. Thanks for all the responses :)

  • Meghan

    Kayla, good for you! My household growing up was the same way. My mother started bordering on becoming a hoarder and I would go through the house with trash bags, throwing away anything not put away. She is still a person with clutter, but she could be a lot worse (her mother had and her aunt has a hoarding problem). I’m 30 now and my family is confused by my lifestyle. I’m not a “real minimalist” in that I have enough to fill a 10.5×11.5 bedroom and a 16′ moving truck, but everything has a purpose and at my age, I could have a lot more. I actually sold a house because it had too many things that I didn’t need or like, and it made me anxious.

  • Maura

    WOW !!! I am SOOO PROUD OF YOU !!!! Thank you for being such an inspiration ! Keep creating your art, your writing and your LIFE !!!!

    WOOOO-HOOOOO !!!!!

  • ” I was mad that I hadn’t thought of minimalism before.”

    I know exactly what you mean! I’m older than you (early 30′s) and it annoyed me so much that it took so long for me to realise that a minimalist life is what I want. Like you, I’m not an extreme minimalist, but I comfortably in a small studio and my boyfriend and I comfortably fit all our belongings in our car. I’m slowly parting with more.

    The best part about learning about minimalism so young is you can avoid one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made (and many other adults.) When I entered the workforce, I instantly started living up to my income (which mostly meant buying lots of stuff), when I could have easily lived with much less. As a result I wasted so much money, took on a ton of debt, and basically locked myself into a job I didn’t like for many years.

    In part because of minimalism, I’m slowly starting to break free. I easily live off less than half of my income and I’m building savings, so that in the future I can follow my dreams and do what I love with my life, instead of working all the time to pay for so much useless stuff. This is the number one lesson I would teach my younger self if I could go back in time, but later is always better than later.

    Good luck with your future. I’m sure if you stay on this path you will have a great future.

    PS: you have a lovely writing style!

  • As an artist, I totally understand the clutter that can come with it. This is especially true if your art is sculpture. Artists see art or potential art in everything, including what others may consider trash. Often, I have seen art rooms in school and college that looked like a dumpster full of manikins, broken pottery, and drift wood exploded in them.

    I am able to work in many different mediums and it has gotten to the point where it is hard to know what direction to go in as an artist. I made the conscious choice to limit the number of mediums I work in to two (colored pencil and Adobe on the computer). I made the choice based on the pleasure the medium gives me, the space it takes up, and if I can make a living at it. I finally admitted to myself that the oil paints were both keepsake sentimental since I did it for years and also my fantasy painter self. Oil painting is not me currently in life so I let it go.

    I scan my sketchbooks into my computer when I have filled them. I have a desk with computer, wacom drawing pad, and scanner. My colored pencils are in a clear tote accompanied with drawing board. I keep two portfolios only, one for fine art and one for graphic design. I keep them current and ready to show potential employers. As an artist, I love a crisp white sheet of paper ready to be drawn on. Minimalism to me is that blank sheet of paper brimming with potential.

    • I have a post scheduled for November 26th on my blog lifesimplybalanced.com where I discuss my struggle as a minimalist and an artist too! I found the more I limit myself, the more inspired I become. It was definitely a change in my life to apply minimalism to my art supplies. For me it was one of the most difficult areas to tackle.

      MarieG lifesimplybalanced.com

  • Kayla, thank you so much for sharing! I think my minimalist journey started around the same time as yours. Something just clicked in my head and I couldn’t take the excess any longer. It’s awesome that you are finding this out now. It will truly make an impact on your still developing adult life.

    MarieG lifesimplybalanced.com

  • Kelly Anderson

    Someone removed my last blog. I thought censorship didn’t exist on the Internet, except in communist China!

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