Real Life Minimalists: Aimee

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, Aimee explores the relationship between minimalism and money—namely, how much of it you’ll save when not filling your house with stuff! Surf on over to her blog to read more.

Aimee writes:


All that money – G O N E

The concept of minimalism came so easy to me and at a young age. I loved to declutter, clean and organize. I don’t know where the interest came from, but I just loved having everything in its place, neat and orderly. I’ve always preferred to ‘travel lightly’ as they say. It was a piece of cake to declutter the contents of my kitchen, bathrooms, closets, office, etc. I could easily identify the items I no longer used or needed. Decluttering was never a struggle for me. I now realize it’s because I always knew I could just replace the things I was discarding or buy cool, new stuff. Not because I am rich, but because I had a wallet full of credit cards. I always found so much to be donated. It felt great to unload things I no longer wanted, but I realized that I was never done decluttering. It’s because I never stopped bringing more stuff into my home. Then I thought about how much money I spent on all that stuff. Ouch. As someone who prides themselves on not being wasteful, it suddenly hit me how much of my hard earned money (at a job I don’t like) I wasted over the years of purging and then reaccumulating. I thought about what it would be like to have that much money in the bank, where it really belonged. Ouch again.

It had taken several years to get rid of all the debt. Getting rid of the clutter was fast and easy, but that was when it really drove home the importance of carefully considering ALL future purchases. It felt so great to pay off the last of the credit cards, student loans and car loans. I thought I was home free. In a way, I was, paying off debt is one of the smartest things you can do for yourself, financially speaking. Everyone talks about the ‘high’ they feel when they buy something new, I was the same way. It was during our last yard sale when I saw my belongings being sold for a fraction of what I had paid for them when the light bulb finally came on. Never again do I want to sacrifice my financial freedom to have a new TV or piece of furniture. Possessions have never improved my life in anyway, at any time.

I’ve vowed to take more time deciding on potential purchases. The rush felt when buying something is often followed by the let down when you realize how much money you just parted with, or when you realize that your shiny new purchase isn’t really going to do anything to make your life better. Now my shopping excursions are few and far between. First I consider whether or not I really need the item I’m thinking about buying. Next, I try to think about what the item costs in terms of how many hours I have to work to pay for it. What an eye opener that is! Are you willing to sacrifice a week’s pay on new designer items or a fancy cell phone? I’m not – not anymore. It took a long time to learn this lesson, but it was well worth the wait.

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{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.}

35 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Aimee

  • Em

    Hi, Aimee, lovely story! The money saving is one of the things I love the most about minimalism. (It just has so many positives, doesn’t it! :D)

    And it comes so naturally. For example I haven’t been at hairdressers for years now, I do my own hair. It was ever a matter of trying to be minimalist, I was just impatient and indecisive and wanted to have the change immediately. Also I never knew which hairdresser to go to, how much can it cost, will it look like what I want… and I chose not to bother to find out, just out of being comfortable.

    Now when I think about all the money I saved, it’s crazy and nice thought. It’s probably the reason why I could always go partying with my friends without worrying about my budget for the night. It never occured to me but all of my friends had it or they at least had to think about the prices. Of course when I think about how much money I could have by now if I didn’t party… :D But life has to be fun sometimes, too. I love how minimalist mindset allows you to spend money on fun things that become good memories.

    I never through yard sale but I have been trying to sell my old clothes online for years and it’s pain in the butt indeed. So much trouble around it, so much effor to get it out and I always end up bringing it to the charity or free clothes swap actions anyway. I am of course glad to recycle this way and to make someone happy but thinking about all the money I’m trowing out… it doesn’t always make me very happy. I, too, pledged to never waste money like that again :)

  • Aimee, awesome realizations! It’s easier to minimize when the stuff isn’t there in the first place. The more I’ve thought about minimalism the more I arrive at this point: 9/10 the reason we buy something is to be able to share an experience with someone else. While I love music and acquiring vinyl records to listen to holds an intrinsic value for me, I’m not going to sit in my room and listen to a record thirty times a day. I buy the records so I can share the music with others and expose them to something they’ve perhaps never heard.

    • John,
      Great comment – my husband and I are huge music fans (he actually used to play in a band) and we have a TON of songs on our computer. It’s easier to share music and put it on various devices now. I got rid of all my old cassettes and CD’s, but I am having trouble letting go of my albums. I’m not sure why that is, the memories, the history? I’m hoping I can donate them or pass them on to someone who would appreciate them.

  • Diane

    I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who finds selling online a “pain in the butt”! Plus, I find it disheartening to see all these consignment shops and online selling websites. Remember the good old days when we gave our used things to our church and they in turn distributed them to the poor families in our communities? Besides, most people who sell online or to consignment shops don’t really need the money.

  • Aimee, thank you for sharing your story. I frequently hear the siren call of online sales, but am learning to distinguish NEED from WANT. In reality, there are very few things I need! Like you I am spending more time before making any purchase. Looking forward to checking out your blog. :)

  • Lovely story, Aimee! I think I was a little bit the same way–good at getting rid of things, but then every time I identified a problem, I would buy something to solve it (hand cream, shoes, a different kind of sippy cup for the baby, on and one).

    Now that I take a moment to think, I’m astonished to realize how often either (a) the problem goes away on its own or (b) I already have something that might work (like using a nearly-full three-year-old tube of petroleum jelly cream instead of buying hand cream). And since my husband is the earner and I’m a very part-time WAHM, I think he appreciates me more when he seems more stretching a dollar instead of spending one.

    • I am now working part time too – it has definitely made me rethink everything I buy, even at the grocery store. Now that I don’t have a steady stream of income, I finally realize how important every dollar is to our budget!

  • Mrs Brady Old Lady

    Ouch indeed – only getting a fraction of the cost of the items I bought when selling them at yard sales… When that started filtering through to me it really helped me to think again before buying anything!

    • Mrs Brady (sorry, but I just can’t call you an Old Lady!),
      I’m glad that hit home; I think it’s a situation we’ve all been in at some time or another. I’ll still have items I discard, but I hope it is after I got my full use of it, not because it sat stored away for years!

  • Apple

    An excercise: calculate your Net hourly pay. ie Gross pay minus taxes, insurance, work-related travel expenses, clothing expenses, food and childcare expenses. Then, check how much you need to work for that magazine, T-shirt, toy etc. :)

  • Anna D.

    As I have been taking a few trips to donate items this past week, this
    post came at a great time! I am pretty ruthless when it comes to
    clutter, but we might be moving soon and I have noticed the “clutter-creep”
    rear it’s ugly little head. It’s not sending stuff off to the GoodWill that
    bothers me, but the visual on how much my husband had to work just
    to see that stuff end up in a donation bin. Not beating myself up about it- just
    needed to see it as a wake-up call.

  • ” I try to think about what the item costs in terms of how many hours I have to work to pay for it.”
    I do the same and I must agree that it really is an eye opener. It puts things into perspective and most of the time I will find a way to not buy the item. I think it is all about how much value the item will bring to me and how much I have to pay for it in terms of hours sacrificed at work.

  • Romana

    Someone in my family once said to me, “You don’t have much stuff…Looks like you need to go shopping and get all new stuff.” I said “I have a LOT of stuff…it’s right where it should be…at the store. If I need it i can go down there and get it. Meanwhile the money for it is right where it should be…in my bank account.” I don’t think there will ever be a shortage of stuff and stores to get it from.

  • Brian

    Oh, Aimee! You have written my experience exactly! We enjoyed decluttering – what shocked us was the money we had watsed on ths ‘stuff’ we were giving away, much of it brand new! It changed out mindset on purchasing, I can tell you!

  • […] Very excited to be profiled on Miss Minimalist! It’s one of my favorite blogs. Check out the link… […]

  • I’ve had a very similar experience. Now, I keep a small list of the things that I would really like, but don’t need, for instance, a grill or well-fitting black dress pants.. If I find something that fills that want perfectly, I’ll consider it. If I find something that sparks my interest, but isn’t on my list, it’s a lot easier to pass up.

  • Kurkela

    One of the best stories here so far.

  • Diana

    Thanks for sharing. I too recently came to the same realization.

    Although I’m a minimalist, (you will not find clutter in my home and everything has a purpose and function) I have a tendency to purchase a lot of new clothes and then donate old clothes. I use the one new in, one old out method.

    The problem as you discovered…it’s a vicious cycle of purchasing and purging clothes. Thankfully, I’m not putting me or my family in any sort of debt.

    BUT, I thought…wow, do I really need to be spending so much time and money on clothes shopping!? Only to then donate the “old” clothes!? What a waste of time and money!

    I’m working on this…thanks again for sharing!

  • Tina

    My daughter gave me her old jacket so I sold my old jacket for $6.
    I had never sold my old clothes before, just given them away. I am wearing a shirt I bought at a garage sale for $1.Most everything I have is from rummage sales, garage sales or was given to me. I never got in the habit of spending money. I am in my 60’s and I remember my college roommate trying to get me to go clothes shopping. All our furniture over the years was from house sales or given to us. You can live on less that way and retire early.

  • Aimee hello! My story is very similar to yours except I’m not as far along in my journey as you are. I have purged and re-bought so many wardrobe items over the years (weight fluctuation has also been an issue).

    TY for sharing and I’m definitely hopping over to your blog.

    • Hi Tania,
      Thanks for commenting. Please do check out my blog and let me know what you think!
      btw…I’ve had the same issues with my weight and needing new clothes, it’s frustrating!

  • […] wrote an article for Miss Minimalist (read it here) outlining the regret I’ve felt over wasting money on items I ended up parting with. As someone […]

  • […] It dawned on me that my previous shopping habit and my purging habit generate similar feelings. For instance when I was in my 20’s with my newly minted credit cards, I bought whatever I wanted. I wanted stuff, thought I deserved stuff, thought I was entitled to have nice stuff, so I bought stuff. It was exciting and euphoric. I wrote about the consequences of my actions for Miss Minimalist (read the article here). […]

  • Tina

    I tried to live with very little years ago and people thought I was crazy. I still don’t spend very much on clothes or things. When I worked full time I seldom went out to lunch. Now that I’m retired I go out once or twice a week with friends.

  • Tina

    I was away for a week with an overnight bag. I took only one nice outfit, the rest just jeans and T shirts. I was saying with a relative with advanced Alzheimer’s while the husband was on a business trip. I cleaned a closet of clothes that didn’t fit and paired socks. We colored, played war, made some paper chains, and sat on the porch looking at cars and people going by. The caregivers took her to a mall, a plant nursery, a farm and other places.

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