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, Ellen tells us how she went from packrat to minimalist—and the wonderful freedom she enjoys with less stuff!
My name is Ellen and I’m 27 years old from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I run a fashion and advice blog called Ask Away (www.askawayblog.com) where I post about fashion trends, organizing, building a wardrobe, and living on a budget. Oh, and I’m a self-proclaimed minimalist. When anyone called me that in the past, I would get defensive, as if they were calling me a derogatory name. Now, I take it as a compliment and convince myself that others secretly wish they could feel as happy and free as I do. That’s probably true anyways.
I used to be a packrat. I was always somewhat organized, but it was organized clutter. As a teen, every drawer was stuffed full, every square foot of my room was lined with furniture. I think I got it from my parents. Growing up in my house it was basically a mindset of filling up empty space and keeping everything because we “might need it someday”. It wasn’t until the age of 22 when I got my own apartment that I realized how much of a pack rat I had been. I was overwhelmed in my 2 bedroom apartment, not by the generous size, but by the “STUFF” that filled it. As I was decorating, I noticed it looked juvenile and messy. There was no décor theme. I just used what I already had accrued to fill all corners and drawers and decorate the place.
So I redecorated with uniformed themes and instead of fuzzy blankets all layered on a couch, I bought actual sofa covers. I bought wall hangings and stuck with neutral tones for furniture. When I looked at everything I had removed, I came to the realization that there was no real reason why I had even kept them as long as I had. I purged a good majority of odds and ends and “childhood” things that really had no sentimental value at all. I still kept accruing things though, I just became more organized with it.
After 3 years in my apartment, I began embracing the idea of minimalism when I decided to pack up and move into a friend’s house. As I packed boxes I noticed many things that I couldn’t even explain why I still had. That was when I really purged everything. I listed furniture on Craigslist, sold books and DVDs online, and sold or donated my old clothing. I even downsized my handbag collection to JUST 2 plastic bins. I gave unused beauty products away as gifts.
This made it so much easier to transition when I moved yet again after a year. This time, I moved backed home in an effort to save money to get a house of my own. And this time, I was determined to have even LESS stuff unpacked and set up at my parent’s house. I also took a long hard look at how my style had been more minimalistic when compared to my parent’s. Their walls were lined with furniture and no surface was bare. I sat them down and forced to say Yes or No to random things that were stuffed into drawers and in storage. If they said it had sentimental value, I asked if they were sure. Most of the time, they realized it wasn’t THAT special. Anytime they said they MIGHT use something again, I would ask if they had used it since the last time they said that, and the answer was almost always no. They began to see how the process works.
Over the past few months, I’ve helped them purge, organize, and keep their home more minimalistic, and as for myself…well, I still live a minimalist lifestyle. I only buy what I need, and in my closet, if I buy something new, I get rid of something old that I don’t wear. I don’t accept free samples unless I NEED them. Everything gets purged on a regular basis. My life is very organized and I don’t feel stressed when I walk into my bedroom. Instead I see everything going on around me and everything I own. I never have to rush to find something or feel anxious when I can’t remember where something may be packed away at. Through all of this I learned that I can have less “stuff” and still be happy. I was actually unhappy when I had more. I was overwhelmed. Now I finally feel free and in control! However there is one thing I’ll never purge or downsize…my collection of Chihuahuas!