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 we have an inspirational story from Cindy Ann. When she and her husband became empty-nesters, they got rid of the nest—and are now enjoying the wonderful freedom of a minimalist lifestyle! Read more of her story on her blog.
Cindy Ann writes:
My husband and I are 59 and 56, respectively. We’ve been together 42 years. We have two grown children. We have IT jobs. He just got transferred to another city. We move in three weeks.
Picture a suburban house full of decades worth of stuff.
One of my co-workers asked if we had started packing yet.
There is nothing to pack.
I store my off-season clothes in my suitcase. We only have enough dishes for one day’s worth of meals. We have no books, DVDs or holiday decorations.
We no longer have that suburban house full of decades of accumulated stuff.
As soon as they could, our kids high-tailed it out of upstate NY headed for the West coast and we got left behind, staring across a huge, empty dining room table at each other. We had a three-bedroom home with a full walk-up attic, finished basement, screen porch and a one-car garage. There might have been some stuff laying around in all of it. Just a little bit of stuff.
Since our skill set was pretty mobile and we had a nice house to sell, we decided not to sit around waiting for them to come visit us. So, we commenced to empty the house. We started with the attic and basement. The garage was basically full of yard tools (snowblower, etc) that were going to stay with the house, so that only needed to be tidied up.
We did the easy stuff first. There was a yard sale or two. No price tags, just haggling. Nothing was allowed back in the house at the end of the day. We used Freecycle and brought bags to the Salvation Army. Once we emptied the storage areas, we started on the kids’ rooms. Some furniture found new homes with family members. We emptied their rooms, gave the walls a fresh coat of white paint and kept on going. We moved downstairs to the dining room and taped off a 7′ square section on the living room floor to be filled with boxes to move with us to a small apartment. More furniture left and more paint was applied.
By the time the house was ready to be put on the market, the upstairs, attic and basement were completely empty and the living room had a futon, rocking chair and a small stack of boxes. The dining room had a bed and a few boxes of clothes. The real estate agent didn’t like it that way, but it sold in two weeks. We were off!!
That was six years ago. Since then we have lived in cities in tiny downtown apartments and on our sailboat for a year and a half cruise up and down the US East coast and Bahamas. We’re in working mode now and excited to try out yet another new city. We keep one small car so we can enjoy weekends on the boat and weekdays in town. There’s no attic, no yard, no useless stuff and no worries. Our evenings are spent playing (we’re learning to rock climb) or volunteering, instead of caring for a house.
Life is wonderful!
And open to possibilities.
And easy to move to the next city.
I am indebted to these authors—Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, Larry and Lin Pardey, Leo Babauta, Joshua Becker, and Miss Minimalist, of course!—without whom I would still be sitting at that dining room table, waiting for my kids to visit me, staring out at an overgrown lawn.