Real Life Minimalists: Annie

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 story from Annie. She tells us how she went from organizing her stuff to minimizing it, and became a more conscious consumer in the process. Read more about her experiences on her blog.

Annie writes:



I’ve always been an avid organizer. Even in elementary school, I had the habit of regularly dumping out all the contents in my drawers to reorganize them. I also enjoyed organizing all the pots, pans and dishes in the play kitchen at daycare while I waited for my parents to pick me up.

After I started working full-time, I discovered the world of blogging and started following several organizing blogs. Those blogs ended up doing more harm than good as I started to buy stuff I didn’t need (or use) like decorating books and craft supplies. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon blogs like Miss Minimalist and Becoming Minimalist, that my minimalist journey began. Both of those blogs talks about how storage is not a solution, which helped me realize that being a minimalist would yield far greater benefits than being organized.

As therapeutic as organizing can be sometimes, what I really wanted was to free up more time, space and resources for spending time with family and friends, cooking, volunteering, journaling, reading and travelling. Since I’m one of those people who struggle with being productive in a cluttered environment, not having all my stuff in place or feeling like there’s something that needs to be cleaned or organized was always a mental roadblock that kept me from doing more of all those activities.

After dabbling in decluttering here and there for a few years, I decided to set a goal for myself last year – to finally reach my ideal state of minimalism before getting married (in November). By the time November rolled around, I thought I was in great shape until it was time to move. Having to lug all my stuff from my loft, down to the living room, down to the lobby and onto a U-Haul truck and then unloading every single item and lugging it up to my new apartment on the third floor was a rude awakening. I realized I had been fooled by the clean surfaces on my desk, nightstand and dresser. The contents inside were out of sight (and out of mind) until I had to physically move it all. I was disappointed in myself on moving day because it was a very stressful experience, which would’ve been less stressful if everything I moved was something I loved. But at least half of the items moved were items I didn’t find useful or beautiful, nor did they bring me joy.

Once I settled into my 480 square foot studio with my husband, I continued to declutter using the question, “would I want to move this to my next apartment?” as my guide. With that mentality, I’ve finally reached my minimalism goal.

A side benefit to minimalism is that instead of just focusing on quality over quantity, I now also take ethics into consideration. For makeup and skincare, I started purchasing products that are vegan and cruelty free. And for clothing, I try to buy secondhand and support companies that don’t contribute to the fast-fashion problem. I am so grateful that minimalism has made me a conscious consumer in more ways than I could have ever anticipated.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or joining my email list.}

23 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Annie

  • It’s amazing how moving can help you take a big leap forward in your minimalist journey! My move a few years ago made me realize I didn’t have stuff as pared down as I thought. I also struggle with being productive in a cluttered environment and you’re right that organizing is not the best cure. I enjoyed your insights and best wishes on your minimalist journey!

  • Cat

    I really enjoyed reading this. My journey is very similar. The first stage for me was organisation and storage solutions, having far too much stuff in the meantime. The second stage was realising I didn’t need the majority of this stuff, which was followed by several years of thorough decluttering. Now that I’m down to the very basics I am focussing on owning and using quality products and cruelty free cosmetics where possible. Thanks for sharing your interesting journey.

  • Sara

    I’m also good at organizing, but will rather minimize. In everyday life stuff piles up regularly, but with us it’s mostly things that we use and which has to be organized somehow. Then there’s the excess stuff – broken and used up things etc. – that can go altogether.

    Thank you for your inspiring story!

  • Karen T.

    I enjoyed reading your post, Annie. My journey is much like yours, but I didn’t get out of the organizing/storing mode until I was in my late 30s. It’s fantastic that you’re exploring minimalism so young, and finding what is truly important to you. Good luck on your journey, and congratulations. It sounds like your one-year wedding anniversary is just around the corner!

  • Helen

    “would I want to move this to my next apartment?”

    What an excellent question and useful tool to use while decluttering!

  • Muntaha

    Your story was great, so much to relate to! Keep up the momentum and don’t let things bog you down as your family grows, always be a minimalist at heart and it’ll get you through your most difficult clutter stages in life (i.e. kids, new job, new house, wherever life takes you)!

    • Thank you for your encouragement, Muntaha! So many people look at my minimalist lifestyle and say, “just wait till you have kids…”. My hope is to show them (like Miss Minimalist has shown me) that minimalism IS possible even with kids and more square footage!

  • Thanks for your story Annie! I love how everyone’s experiences of minimalism are so different, yet I always relate to something in each one. I’m glad you’ve reached your minimalism goals, that must feel very liberating!

  • Annie, your story reminded me of Marie Kondo’s book about the magic of tidying up – if memory serves, she used to organise stuff while at school! I also used to organise and reorganise my drawers, and then I’d try to talk my little sister into ‘inheriting’ my unwanted gifts – I couldn’t bear to throw them away, but I could live with giving them away! ;o) Thanks for sharing your story, it was a lovely read.

  • Following a vegan diet is an immediate way to change the world.

    • I agree with you 100%! Luckily, after reaching my minimalism goal, I had a lot more time to watch documentaries like Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy. After watching those documentaries, I stopped cooking meat at home and continue to eat less and less dairy and meat. I think it would be hard for anyone to wake up one day and decide to suddenly be vegan but at least that’s the direction I’m heading.

  • […] I finally submitted my story.  It was published this week ?. […]

  • I love how minimalism leads to a “what’s next?” mentality! It happened that way for me too! :)

  • Bridget Lodge

    Excellent post! Becoming minimalist within the last 10 years have opened my eyes to veganism and also switching my beauty products to cruelty free (after I used up the others, of course). I then simplified my makeup routine to only mascara, eyeliner, and lipstick…and then adopted a simpler hairstyle and stopped coloring it. The freedom I have in my brain along with better health has helped me to relax more and be at peace. I applaud you for discovering this lifestyle at a young age. It took the death of my Mom and dealing with her “stuff” to motivate me. Good for you!

  • I never dyed my hair. It was one less thing I needed to do. I have never worn much makeup, another habit I didn’t pick up. We seldom eat red meat, maybe 4 times a year. Chicken or fish more often. Vegetarian meals 3 or 4 times a week. If I go out to lunch with friends, I get a baked potato or a bowl of soup. Cheese pizza is another thing we get when dining out.

  • Tina

    When I went to my 50th high school reunion, everyone recognized me. They commented on my wrinkle free skin. Stay out of the sun. Don’t smoke and wear very little makeup. Drink lots of water and use soap with only natural ingredients. I carry a bag and pick up trash wherever I go. I cleaned up around my doctor’s office one day and did the area around a park another day.

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