Real Life Minimalists: Katherine

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 wonderful contribution from Katherine, who tells us how she is re-discovering minimalism. My favorite line: “my heart did a 180 when it came to possessions.” Surf on over to her blog to learn more.

Katherine writes:

In college, I could not wait to explore the world as a study-abroader! I purchased an adequately sized backpack from a local store to carry and was on my way. What I didn’t realize until I arrived in Europe, was that all my classmates planned to carry backpacks three times the size of mine.

Oh well, I thought. This is what I have, and it’ll have to work. And somehow it did. I’d fit two weeks worth of clothes and necessities in that little bag. I never missed a train, because my belongings were too heavy to lug around. I always had enough, but was never slowed down by possessions.

The trend of requiring little continued. After college, I spent time overseas as a missionary. My fiance was doing the same. Neither of us owned much. When we returned to the states to get married, we were overwhelmed by the idea of registering for our wedding. The kind folks at Bed, Bath, & Beyond handed us the registering gun, fully expecting us to request 400 items! What were we going to do with all that stuff? I think we selected a few baking pans before we had to get out of there.

I tell these stories to demonstrate my minimalist roots and tendencies.

Fast forward a few years, throw in a baby, a house, and a few too many decorating magazines. Friends, I gave in to consumerism. Suddenly, I couldn’t have enough pillows on my couch, enough pictures on my walls, or enough objects in storage to rotate in when I was tired of the current set-up.

We were in graduate school at the time, which meant finances were limited. This led to a habit of holding onto just-in-case items. Stuff began to pile up.

In May, we finished school. My husband started his first real job, and we moved into a bigger house. The bigger house meant bigger closets. Bigger closets means a greater ability to store useless items.

Somehow, during this move, I began to stumble upon simplifying and minimalism blogs. The effect this material had on me was profound. It is almost as if my heart did a 180 when it came to possessions. I went from spending hours scouring websites for deals on furniture to hours of reading about getting rid of stuff!

I decided that rather than filling all the closet space in the new house, I wanted to keep them as empty as possible. I was on a mission. I’d get a healthy dose of minimalist encouragement (by reading 3 or 4 posts) and then, I’d go clean out! I got rid of trunk loads of stuff. It felt incredible, almost addicting, really.

When I visited my parents’ house this summer, I cleaned out the bins and bins they were storing for me. A lifetime of paperwork, random awards, junior high notes, and holiday cards were inspected. I’d watch episodes of Hoarders on Netflix and simultaneously purge. It felt wonderful not to be burdening my parents with my stuff.

To be honest, I do not think I will ever be a full on minimalist. I like having a couch (gasp) and a lot of seating in my family room. We host large groups of people often, so it’s useful to have plates, cloth napkins, and chairs. However, I have learned so much from minimalism.

It has changed the way I shop for clothes and view my wardrobe, by causing me to ask important questions concerning purchases. It has led me to think through good money management, saving, and investing. Finally, it has given me the ability to let go of unnecessary possessions, to not define myself or my life based on my possessions, and to feel a genuine freedom in that. I am grateful!

{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: Victoria
  2. Real Life Minimalists: simple in france
  3. Real Life Minimalists: Janet

17 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Katherine

  • Congratulations on your ever evolving journey. Keep it your own. It is okay to have couches, beds, dressers and whatever each individual needs to be comfortable and happy. Our home has “stuff” but it is all stuff that we need and use. We have one large baking sheet instead of the six I used to keep stored. I keep one set of extra bed linens and that sort of thing. Some people would not do that. As you likely know, with a child everything changes. They have things they love and that is also okay. In my mind, being a successful minimalist means living well with less; only what we need/want and not the excess.
    I am so happy for you and thrilled to see you use the word freedom. That is powerful.

    • I love everything about this comment! Ahsha, how encouraging! “only what we need / want and not the excess.” Especially at this time of year, it’s so easy to think we need all the excess, but the goal is freedom. Regardless of the number of our possessions, they should never make us slaves. Thanks so much for your thoughts!

  • Hi Katherine,

    I love your story. I think most people can relate to you and your version of minimalism. While I have nothing against the extremists, I think their stories resonate with only a few; yours has a broader impact. For me, minimalism is defined by each person as it uniquely applies to his/her life…there’s no one-size-fits-all. As Ahsha points out, it’s about keeping what you need to be comfortable and happy; no more.

    As for the line that struck me the most, it was this: “It felt wonderful not to be burdening my parents with my stuff.”

    I hope everyone who reads this post thinks about what they ask their parents to store. And, further, if their parents pay for a storage unit for any reason, consider what part are they playing in adding that expense to their parent’s budget. Perhaps extra storage wouldn’t be needed if there was more room at home to store their own things.

    So often, our desire to keep stuff has a ripple effect on the financial well-being of others. I admire you for taking action to clear your possessions out of your parent’s space.

    Now, I’m off to check out your blog!

    • Hi Ree Klein,
      My parents would definitely agree with you on their favorite part! They were thrilled with the amount of stuff they are no longer storing for me. (To be honest, my wedding dress is still there …)

      Thank you so much for coming over to my blog! I really appreciated your comment there and had a minute earlier to begin digging through all your content! I am excited to keep reading!

  • Thanks for sharing your story. This part of your post really resonated with me:

    “…finances were limited. This led to a habit of holding onto just-in-case items. Stuff began to pile up.”

    This is how I feel most of the time right now. I struggle with this a lot.

    I can also relate to reading posts/watching videos to get a burst of decluttering motivation. That’s why I come here every Monday to read everyone’s stories- free inspiration and motivation!

    • Susan, I read this blog every Monday too! I do think it is easier to get rid of stuff if you know in the back of your mind you can always replace it. I’m sure with such a healthy diet of decluttering inspiration you are doing a great job!

  • Katherine, you made me smile when you spoke about watching Hoarders and purging. I do the same thing! I throw in a little Clean House too. I’m enjoying exploring your blog and learning more about your journey.

  • Linda Sand

    Minimalism is not about having few things; it is about having the right things. For you having the things to host large groups is right. Please, don’t apologize for that.

  • Nice work Katherine! I always like it when I take a backpacking trip. Everything is so simple and brought down to the essentials. It makes me really think when I get back from the wilderness how much I really need. I plan to donate some books and clothes this holiday season. We (and by we I mean Americans in general) have an abundance of unnecessary “just in case” items as you said. Much of the time, these perfectly good items can be put to use for other people who need them! Bravo.

  • Hi Katherine,

    Having parents where you can store your stuff is a tricky one. Because on the one hand you got rid of all the crap, but on the other, you can always go and get the stuff you need.

    You never actually need any of it of course.

    I’m travelling South America at the moment with a carry-on bag – much like your study-abroader experience. I dumped a truck load of crap at my parents house. I’m not going back any time soon, but I already know what I’ll be busy with when I finally do :)

  • Marianna

    I put a load of stuff (crap) in my parents’ attic and cellar when I moved away from home. Although my Mum isn’t what you would probably call a minimalist – she is more a ‘practicalist’ (think I just made that word up!) – after the stuff/crap had been in storage for over two years, she told me that I clearly didn’t need or want it as I had never once looked at any of it. Thus began my minimalist journey, which continues to this day!

  • Lizzy W

    “I’d watch episodes of Hoarders on Netflix and simultaneously purge. It felt wonderful not to be burdening my parents with my stuff.” This is a very pertinent point, well put and relevant! One can sometimes easily forget the impact one’s “stuff” can have on those other people around us!

  • Hey y’all,
    I wanted to invite all bloggers to participate in a small link-up party over on my own blog. The theme is “In 2013, I Learned …” The topics can be anything from parenting to wisdom, to life hacks, to cooking, to whatever, but anything you learned! I felt like posting on my own post was the least ghetto way to do this! Hope some of you come around! The link is open through Saturday!


  • Alex

    I used to love Hoarders too!
    Minimalism is different for everyone. Don’t restrict the things you love in life by being without the things needed to do them. : )

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