Real Life Minimalists: Hannah

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 Hannah, who writes about why she adopted a minimalist lifestyle and the happiness it’s brought her.

Hannah writes:



When you search on google or YouTube “minimalism”, you’re bombarded with links to learn about the practices of 20-somethings who have adopted the lifestyle as the NBD. I fit into every stereotype of the 2017 minimalist: young, vegan, and (obsessively?) environmentally and financially conscious. The one way I believe my story sticks out is how I arrived at changing my lifestyle.

This spring, while I was working to overcome some mental health struggles, I started watching documentaries on Netflix. Bored one day, I watched the Minimalism movie that most of us have probably seen at some point. I didn’t put too much thought into it; I thought it was a cool idea, but I doubted that it was ever any information that I’d incorporate into my own life. Then one day I was enjoying a weekend from college in my and my aunt’s home (I must point out that she’s been on her minimalism journey before it became the latest fad). I took a look around and noticed how peaceful I always felt in that space. Every item, unless a decorative wall decoration or a vase of flowers here and there, had a function or purpose. Our home was clean and bright; there were no distractions, no excess of things to look after and focus our attention on.

I returned to my apartment at the end of the weekend and immediately noticed how loud my room felt. I opened my closet and saw clothing I rarely wore, old stuffed animals from before I learned to read, and gadgets I hadn’t used in months or years. I started wondering: maybe if I reduced the distractions, could I gain better focus consciously and subconsciously on improving my health and state of mind?

The next weekend, my aunt helped me to go through, painstakingly!, every item in my closet, my drawers, and my kitchen cabinets. We donated or sold at least 5 trash bags worth of stuff over the next few months. I cleaned up my diet, deciding to re-commit to veganism in an effort to simplify my diet, a choice that felt natural now that I was also cleaning up other areas of my life. I deleted 20 apps off my phone that I never used or I realized were unnecessary for me (the Starbucks app, anyone?).

While possibly cliché, I have never felt better or more at peace. The only way I can describe the change is that I feel my home, diet, and general life are simply less noisy. Everything in my bedrooms (both at home and in my college apartment) have purpose, make me smile, and involve no stress. There’s no clothing bombarding my wardrobe that makes me think “well, in 5 pounds gained or 10 pounds lost, this will fit perfectly!” Since my first big clean out, I’ve never had an issue trying to find anything; nothing is “hiding” anymore: my tank top is always on my second clothing divider, my lightweight jacket is in my duffel bag of winter clothes, and my phone charger is always in the left side of my family’s antique chest.

At first glance, you could easily argue that this seems a little obsessive, who knows exactly where everything they own is at all times? However, when you eliminate unnecessary, ill-fitting, or non-joy-sparking items from your life, it’s incredible how easy it is to keep track of everything. One really awesome thing that may also come out of this journey is the beginnings of understanding what you actually like. For instance, I used to have a makeup bag full of different products. A contour kit, eyeshadow palettes, more lipsticks than I could keep track of, and a bunch of half-used eyeliner. I never really enjoyed makeup that much, wore it only occasionally, and found it to always be more of a hassle than anything else. What changed after I went through my belongings? I discovered how much I love just the classic eyeliner and mascara combination! It’s become a fun part of my morning and when I’m feeling fancy, I put on one of the four lipsticks I have.

Nothing distracts me anymore from what I actually enjoy. I take less time to get ready in the morning because I only have clothing I love. I don’t agonize over the “good” vs. “bad” food choices because I only eat foods I want to put in my body and feel good about. I have never been happier.

{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.}

22 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Hannah

  • The journey sounds good. I feel too good when my hubby asks me for a things and I instantly direct him without any doubt. I too remember the place of things. A gift of decluttering.

  • tina

    your story really resonated with me. everything you said makes home is too noisy. wish your Aunt could come visit and help me sort..but I will do it! thank you for sharng

  • My roommate freshman year in college had to deal with some mental health issues, too. Unfortunately, her problems escalated in pace with the amount of stuff that piled up on her side of the room. I don’t mean the typical college messiness. I mean she ended up with so many things that there was no longer room for her to even sit. She was literally sleeping with her stuff by the end of first semester. It sounds like you, Hannah, had the exact opposite experience: you got healthier as the amount of stuff decreased. I am happy for you!

  • Alix

    As Hannah’s proud aunt, I can confirm that she’s taken to minimalism like a fish to water! Away from the “noise” of being surrounded by lots of stuff, she’s rediscovered things she loves to do, and now feels free to do them.

    We recently made over her bedroom at home, too. No longer is it a childhood museum; now it’s the cool, calm retreat of a young woman. We sold old bedroom furniture and an armchair that served only to hold clothes. Furnished now with just a bed and a small antique table, the room isn’t stark at all. A handmade blanket, a cherished photo and a few pieces of family artwork keep the space comforting, cozy, and meaningful.

    Unlike so many of us, Hannah’s never been much into retail therapy, so I’m confident she’ll be successful at keeping the noise level of her possessions pretty quiet. She’d much rather spend her hard-earned money on travel and experiences, anyway. Far from being my student in minimalism, she’s now my inspiration!

  • Kathie

    Congratulations! I love knowing where every item I own is located, too. I still struggle with clothes, so you’ve inspired me. But I’ve come a long way, and I love decreasing the noise of stuff! Good Luck!

  • Julieanne

    Thanks for sharing your story. NBD=?

  • Carolyn

    Nice post! The phrase “eliminate ill-fitting, unnecessary or non-joy-sparking items from your life” made me smile. How fun to hear from your aunt Alix above, too!

  • Jenni

    Loved this post! Every time I clear a space I feel that wonderful sense of space and calm that you mention, I have a long long way to go (four kids all living at home still!) but I will keep moving slowly, your post was very inspiring as I also have recommitted to a vegan diet and that is also making me feel very happy and able to make much more simple and healthy food choices. Thanks!

  • I really enjoy reading these posts because I’m the only non hoarder I know. I love to clean out cupboards and pass items on. My husband wants to buy some new things for our home and I want to give away 2 more bags of stuff first. Last week I helped a woman declutter 4 big bags of clothes out of a small closet. She had things she had never worn.

  • Rachel

    Great story! Just one small thought: In all honesty, there actually doesn’t seem to be anything unusual or unique about this story (other than the fact that it’s your personal experience, which has of course only been experienced by you!) But I want to be clear: there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with having a story that doesn’t “stick out,” or with feeling like fit a “stereotype.” Another word for that – in my opinion, a better word – would be “human”! as long as your story is meaningful to you, it doesn’t have to be wildly different than everyone else’s to have value. Your story has value because you do. Congrats on following the well-worn path to a simpler, happier lifestyle.

  • Katja

    Great story! Thank you for sharing!

  • Karen T.

    Hi Hannah. I enjoyed your post, especially your point about minimalism helping you to begin to understand WHAT YOU ACTUALLY LIKE. You’re absolutely right about this growing insight into yourself and what really matters to you. How wonderful that you’ve found this path while you are young.

  • Kelley W.

    Hannah, I enjoyed reading about your journey. I have just started on my own journey, albeit slowly, but baby steps…right? I come from a family with a lot of “stuff” so it is a struggle. However, every time I get rid of a few things, I feel “lighter”. Does that make any sense? I love that when I find out that someone is coming over I don’t freak out about straightening up as it only takes me about 5 minutes to do so now. I also find that I no longer find most things tempting when I go shopping. For the most part, I only buy what is necessary. Every time I return home with nothing, I feel victorious.

  • Stacy

    Hannah, I read every post of and rarely comment, but like others have said this resonates with me. I have so much noise in my home currently that I am going to take your advice! I also loved the comment left by your Aunt Alix and as an Aunt myself I hope to provide inspiration to my niece and nephew some day. I guess I need to get going with a large clean out with the goal of a quiet home!
    Thank you for sharing!

  • Interesting. I loved that movie and it also inspired me to de-clutter my life a bit- albeit not as much I should have. I travel for a living and de-cluttering my house and travel gear really helped me get more out of travel as well.

    Thanks for the reminder to keep working on this.


  • Mike

    I too noticed a difference in my home when I decluttered the living/dining/first floor open space. We had a coffee table in front of the couch that we moved next to the fireplace for kindling storage, and we never got around to replacing it. We mounted the TV on the wall, which allowed us to install a simple wood shelf below it for the boxes; goodbye to the TV stand. The recycle bins are a necessity, because we recycle 80% of our waste, but we moved them into a closet instead of the living room. It is much more open now compared to a few months ago; if not for the couch, it’s almost like when we first moved in and hadn’t unpacked our stuff! We still have a way to go. Right now, I can sweep the entire first floor with a simple 2-ft-wide broom and the only furniture that I have to move around is the dining table and chairs! Next up is the excess chairs. We have six chairs, and three cats who like to take our chairs in the morning, so we’ll keep four chairs and the barstools. We’ll put the excess in the basement for the rare times when we have more than two guests.

    Oh, and the remaining waste is about 10% trash due to cat litter, 5% compost, and 5% burnables for our fireplace.

  • christy

    i love the “noise” reference. so good. how is your vegan diet going? i did not do well on it (bloating, muscle loss) but would love to give it another shot.

    • Heather

      Consult with a plant-based certified nutritionist/dietician if you want to give the vegan lifestyle another try. They can analyze your intake and help you determine the cause of and resolve the things you had issues with before. There are a lot of ripped vegan athletes out there who gained muscle after going vegan.H

  • Tina

    My daughter is a junior grade hoarder. She needed to clean out her bathroom so the sink could be repaired. I love to declutter, so I told her to pull everything out. We threw out many empty bottles and cans. Then I found a plastic basket, told her to wipe out under the sink and only put back what she really used. We threw out more. After washing the floor, toilet, sink, and tub, the bathroom was clean and it took less than an hour. She has been bringing me clothing a garbage bag a week. I wash it, sort it and donate it.

  • Tina

    Today my daughter told me she sold 40 paperback books.I was thrilled. She has way too much of everything. She has boxes of stuff she hasn’t opened in maybe 10 years. I have started another give away bag already. And I have a pile of 5 books to sell. I usually get books from the library.

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