Real Life Minimalists: Matea

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, we have a lovely story from Matea. She’s now enjoying a simple, quiet life with her family, and tells us the changes she made to get there.

Matea writes:


I was first introduced to voluntary simplicity at twenty-one years old when I was a Jesuit Volunteer in northern Montana. But I arrived that fall in Montana with a suitcase, and left with a TON of junk, so the whole simple living thing clearly didn’t sink in. That was seven years ago. It took a few more years until I finally yearned for a simpler way of life on my own.

Until recently, my husband and I were living in San Francisco. Something about the frenetic chaos of that city made me yearn for a quiet simplicity. I spent a lot of my time in San Francisco thinking about nature, missing nature, and wondering why I didn’t just live in a place like rural Montana forever and ever. Eventually, I started simplifying, and in turn, began to enjoy the present a little more.

Here are some ways I pursued simplicity and minimalist living.

I stopped consuming so much. I worked in a bustling hair salon in Union Square, but at the same time gave up shopping for any clothes (including accessories, shoes, and underwear) for six months. That’s a serious feat for a hairdresser. And you know what? No one noticed or cared that I was wearing the same things over and over again.

I purged. I not only cut back on shopping, I got rid of an obscene amount of stuff. I pared down my clothing so that it fits into one large suitcase (not including sweaters or coats). I got rid of books, tchotchkes, papers and more.

I simplified my free time. Back in the day, I had so many acquaintances and casual friendships. It was exhausting, unfulfilling, and always ended up making me feel sort of lonely. In San Francisco, I spent time with people I really cared about. I didn’t have a lot of friends in San Francisco, and I spent a lot of time alone or with my husband, but that allowed me time to learn about myself.

I cultivated some hobbies. When I stopped consuming, I had more time to pursue some enriching extracurriculars. I baked pies. And I knit. And it was nice.

What did I learn when pursuing minimalism? I learned that I am most authentically me without the stuff. I am happy living a quiet life. I am content being home (in Portland, OR) with my husband and our son. I like cooking dinner for my family, and I like cleaning (so much more enjoyable without the STUFF!). This new pace of my life allows me to pursue a deeper relationship with God, and I am excited about that. It took me almost thirty years to get here – to a place unfettered by endless distraction – but I am so happy to have found a simpler way of life.

{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: Nina Yau
  2. Real Life Minimalists: This Tiny Asteroid
  3. Real Life Minimalists: Aspiring Minimalist

17 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Matea

  • I love that you mentioned that you simplified your acquaintances and placed more value on closer relationships or time alone. I think lots of people miss that part of minimalism and simple living; they focus on material things only, where in my opinion I think it encompasses so much more. It’s great you have found balance in your life.


    • Matea

      Thanks, Marie! It definitely feels more authentic to have my real friends, and less acquaintances (though I am on facebook, and that is definitely an area in my life I could simplify!)

      Best, Matea

  • Matea, loved reading your story and the evolution of your journey to the simple, quiet life you live now! I lived in San Francisco for three years when I was in my 20s and can relate to some of what you write about. Best wishes in all your pursuits!

  • MelD

    Well done!
    Pretty much all the hair salons I know here in Europe seem to dictate a plain uniform of T-shirt and jeans, mostly black, sometimes white – seems a minimalist wardrobe is ideal for a hairdresser… ;)

  • Jeannine

    It’s so lovely to hear how people can find calm and quality in their life after re-evaluating rheir consumer habits. I’m glad to hear of your success. Btw, I like your jaunty hat in the pic.

    • Susan Whitley

      Oh, I love that hat, too! Also, my husband and I have figured out how quality trumps quantity every time — in relationships and life’s (actual) necessities. We’ve even decided to stick to a one-pet rule, since nature has taken its course and we’re down to one 14-yr.-old Jane Russell. We’re spending more time with family, close neighbors, and helping the extremely poor neighborhood our church has chosen to focus on. Getting back to the very basics is improving our marriage, too. We’ve learned more about each other in the past six months than in our entire 12-year marriage — all because of a less cluttered and more compassionate lifestyle.

    • Matea

      Thank you! That’s awesome that your marriage has benefitted your minimalist lifestyle. Best to you!


  • Hi Metea, it sounds like you have found a “place” to exist that is perfectly suited for you. I assume it also works well for your husband. My partner and I have been working on consolidating two households into one. His 1,400 sq ft home, which he sold, and his 1,600 sq ft shop into the one property we both now live in. A 1,123 sq ft home and garage in a typical CA neighborhood.

    He gave up the most in the way of possessions so I can’t complain about the few things he did keep; however, the volume of “things” I have to move to dust is, to me, overwhelming and makes it so that I dread doing that job. I have to be clear that at least 1/2 of what I pick up is my “stuff” so I could trim down more on what I have and probably not miss it all that much. Something to work on…over time… sure would love to feel like cleaning is a positive experience and not something to dread!

    Congratulations on building a life that brings you joy :)


    • Matea

      Ree, your project sounds exciting! I definitely agree that dusting stuff is a nuisance! It’s definitely been a process for me, and there are certainly days I feel like leaving the dishes in the sink, but overall it’s so much nicer to clean w/ less stuff. Best of luck to you on consolidating households!


  • Susan

    Thank you for expressing the joy of reduced consumption so well. I too appreciate the extra time with my family now that I don’t run out to the stores every weekend. My son and I walk to the library instead, and stop for a treat on the way home. Some weekends I still have to devote to carting away the stuff we don’t need, but things are gradually getting clearer and simpler.

  • Lizzy W

    Although we will all need some things, the rampant consumerism one sees is enough to turn one’s stomach! For me – and I am not religious – but seeing people flock to the shops on a Sunday is nauseating!

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