Real Life Minimalists: Lori

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 Lori. She and her husband retired early, downsized their possessions to two carry-on bags, and are pursuing their dream of long-term travel. I for one look forward to following their adventures on their blog!

Lori writes:



Upon asking my mom about a picture of a four-year-old me on Christmas morning long ago, she said, “This was a Christmas we spent at your grandparents’ house in New Jersey. Your father was stationed overseas at the time and I didn’t want to spend the holidays alone. I remember that you walked downstairs on Christmas morning and saw so many glittering, wrapped presents piled high just for you. You were so overwhelmed that you chose only one gift to open, a simple child-sized rocking chair. We had a hard time convincing you to open anything else but you did, to make us happy. That year, surrounded by so many toys, puzzles, dolls, games, and books, you know what your most treasured gift was? That rocking chair.”

This story was like a light bulb moment for me because I made the connection that maybe I’ve been a minimalist all along. Other clues as I pondered my past behaviors were that I had a deep fascination with The Little House on the Prairie series of books as a young reader. I remember being so comforted by Laura Ingalls’ descriptions of her simple log house in the Big Woods, her cozy sleeping loft that she shared with her sister, and her simple corn husk rag doll that her Ma made for her.

Later, as a young rookie teacher, I lost some of my minimalist tendencies. I started saving stacks and stacks of worksheets, file folders, supplies, craft materials, children’s books, and classroom decor “just in case” I could use them someday. Multiply that by 27 years of teaching, and you can guess that I had a lot of unnecessary and unused materials dragging me down, just collecting dust in boxes on the shelves in my classroom. I forgot what I even had in them.

Once I got married and started a family, the stuff just kept accumulating. Wedding gifts to sort and store, first home furnishings and decor to manage and keep organized, then a baby boy with all the many things needed to nurture him.

It took a big move overseas to Japan, to reawaken my minimalist nature. My husband and I received teaching assignments in Tokyo and as you know, housing there is a minimalist’s dream. Really tiny and efficient spaces force you to reevaluate what you really need. I remember that we could only take a few items with us to start our life in Japan, but the rest of our household goods would arrive a few months later. We didn’t realize how much our stuff had been weighing us down until we were forced to live without it temporarily. Once the rest of our shipment arrived, we looked at each other as we unpacked box after box. We often asked ourselves, “Why did I even think I would need this?” Instead of using only a few plates, bowls, glasses, and utensils, we now had cabinets overflowing with them. I once again felt heavy and burdened.

Our overseas teaching experience afforded us the opportunity to travel to many places. As we observed family after family living happily with so much less in countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, the minimalist ember began to burn brightly again.

When our son moved away to college, we faced our empty nest with a new resolve. Seeing Chase’s near-empty bedroom prompted us to do some major purging of our own. We started in very small steps, but you know what? A funny thing happens when you start clearing the clutter. It becomes strangely addictive. The more we cleared away, the lighter we felt. So, we kept going to the point that one day we jokingly challenged each other to consider letting it ALL go. Every. Single. Thing.

It took over a year of soul-searching, deep discussions, planning, purging, and more than a few sleepless nights before we were able to finally make the leap. We realized that waiting for just the “right” time would never come. So, this past June, after selling or donating all of our possessions, we left our very secure teaching jobs well before retirement age and stepped into a future of full time travel. We now carry with us only what can fit in two carry-on sized bags. The world is literally at our feet and the excitement we feel each day is akin to that of falling in love.

Our first stop on our early retirement journey is Chiang Mai, Thailand. We are here for a year and have switched roles from teachers to students as we are learning to speak Thai. It is a humbling and gratifying experience to be on the other side of the desk at this point in our lives. People we meet ask us where we’ll go next. Our answer? Everywhere! Travel is our true passion and we plan to keep going as much as we can, as far as we can. Want to follow along on our adventure? Be sure to check out our blog at

Lori, age 4

Lori, age 4

{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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Live, Laugh, Clean

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, Live, Laugh, Clean provides a wonderful account of how she keeps her household streamlined and well-managed. Very inspirational!

Live, Laugh, Clean writes:

My journey to a minimalist lifestyle comes from simply wanting to be organized. I wanted my finances, house, family and my life to be organized and well-managed. With a frugal background that came from my school-teaching parents I saw the benefits from learning to manage your resources well. We were blessed to travel extensively not because my parents made a lot of money but because they planned well with what they earned. Money and material things come into our lives all the time and the key is to really stop and think how best to use them both to enhance and sustain your life.

Minimalism is an ongoing process for me as I use it in each area of my life. Being married and raising two kids, I wanted to provide the appropriate accoutrements for family life. This means that I don’t want to make my kids live in a yurt or carry all my possessions in a tiny backpack. But I knew there was a way to consume responsibly and I focused my efforts on three guidelines: Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose.

My home is now easy to keep organized because we don’t have a lot of unused junk lying around. The closets are frequently used to store items out of sight but still in reach for daily or weekly use. The kitchen cabinets close properly because they only hold the dishes we use. There aren’t any cabinets filled with hundreds of unused plastic containers or unused kitchen appliances. The pantry is monitored and organized because I can save a lot time and money by cooking. Keeping your pantry and refrigerator organized also saves on food waste.

My kids’ rooms stay neat and organized (most of the time) because I engage them in the process. Before each Christmas and birthday I encourage them to go through their toys and books and decide what is no longer age-appropriate or of interest to them. I am always vocal about how if something is no longer in use, we can decide how best to let it go. Should it be sold or donated? Is it broken or no longer usable and if so, can we recycle it? This has taught my kids that each stage of life will require different needs and they can learn how to actively keep track of what’s in our home.

Our clothing closets and dressers only hold clothing that fits properly and is used on a regular basis in that season. (Except for my husband’s….more on that later.) I don’t buy tons of outfits for the kids because I know their bodies are growing along with their tastes. Each season we check to see what still fits and what needs replacing so that when we go shopping we are doing it mindfully and only purchase what is needed.

I use files to keep home and financial records in order. At the end of each year and in preparation for tax season I review the receipts and important papers (medical bills, credit card bills, bank statements etc) and what isn’t used for taxes is either archived or shredded. This is not a dreaded task because I file the papers throughout the year by sorting any incoming mail daily and tossing junk mail in the recycle immediately. I only get the Sunday paper and read it by Tuesday before it goes in the recycle. All the other news I can get online throughout the week. I do all bill-paying online to save on stamps and paperwork. I keep home files for appliance records and other household needs.

You can start with one area of your home that you’d like to improve and work your way through it. I’ve found choosing one area per season is a great way to avoid becoming over-whelmed. At the end of one year, you’ll be amazed at how much cleaner and more organized your life will become. Stay alert to what comes into your home and avoid the unnecessary (i.e. too many magazine subscriptions, catalogs or stuffed Santa dolls). Be honest with yourself while shopping by asking “Do we really need this item?”

These are ways I keep control of our spending and clutter. The best part is I save more of our income by being mindful of what we already have and what we consume and I don’t have to go without indoor plumbing! Yes, sometimes it’s a struggle to get family members to agree to the process. My husband has been stubbornly attached to old business clothes and other items in the garage that no longer seem useful. And that’s OK. I’ve found the each person can come to the knowledge of his or her version of minimalism when the time is right for them. Sometimes that happens with a move, job change or other life-changing event. Go at your own pace and set an example for your family members and you may find they start de-cluttering alongside you before long.  Good luck on your own journey!

{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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Lara

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, Lara shares with us the contentment she’s found in letting go of consumerism. Please visit her blog to learn more about how she’s simplifying her life.

Lara writes:


The Nordstrom sale was an epic, annual event in my childhood. My mother and I would wait expectantly outside the massive department store at 7 am to wait for the doors to open. It really was fun, but after the initial high of wardrobe acquisition wore off, I was still smack in the middle of an adolescence hurt by divorce and emotional pain. I genuinely understand now that was the way my mom tried to make things happier in our house. She felt better after investing in new outfit that made her feel special, why shouldn’t it do the same for her daughter? I love her for doing what she could to ease the pain swirling for both of us, yet to this day shopping makes me feel a bit melancholy. It reminds me of the gaping hole that was never filled despite the shiny, new shoes taking up real estate in my overstuffed closet.

At 43, I’m a mom to clothes-obsessed teens and wife to a wonderful man who loves his toys. I am starting the rather inconvenient process of simplifying. As in Goodwill-bound stacks of bags in the garage & a ruthless paring down of our scheduled activities simplifying. I’m going about it quietly, of course, because I believe this process is not something you can will on someone else. I have had some victories with leading by example. Those bags in the garage? They’re mostly filled with clothes my girls’ were willing to part with. We’ve even pared down the extracurriculars to a sane, manageable number.

As I let go of consumerism (feels so great!), I am finding immense contentment in many things. The relationships with my kids, my career as a teacher, the adoption of a clean diet & running program, dates with my husband, family trips, and meaningful friendships with women I adore. These are all things that have become the fabric of my life and it’s really quite exciting. Sometimes I yearn to take back the years I spent pursuing the wrong things. If I could do it again, I would travel like crazy with minimal baggage and the kids in tow. I do believe that showing your offspring the world is one of the best things you can do for their own pursuit of happiness.

I am clear on the fact that this process will take time, but one of the most wonderful things about simplifying is that it begins where you are. It’s your own journey unique to the life you’ve created so far. It also is an on-going process that changes with each stage of life. I actually feel cleansed and physically lighter with each step I take down the Less is More road. I’m hoping that retirement will find us in a smaller space (with big windows!) and that I will be able to show my girls (and possibly their children one day) that a happy life is defined by who you decide to share your life with, what you decide to do for a living, and how much you give to others.

I’m chronicling our simplifying journey on my blog I’d love to hear what others are doing in their own quest.

{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.}

Real Life Minimalists Update: Francesca of Tasmanian Minimalist

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 an update from Francesca of Tasmanian Minimalist, whose original feature appeared in July 2011. She tells us how she strayed from the minimalist path, but has returned with renewed vigor and determination.

Francesca writes:

It’s been two years since I had my minimalist life under control. Where my house was only inhabited by useful, practical and well loved items. My debt was almost cleared, my wasteful spending a thing of the past. Miss Minimalist honored me as a ‘minimalist of the week’ and national newspapers, and international magazines had done a feature on my downsizing.

I was queen of my own decluttered life.

For a while anyway.

I can not pinpoint the moment things began to change, but I do know it involved small parcels of cheap jewellery ordered from eBay arriving in my mail box. I had begun shopping again.

Many more parcels began to arrive. The post master of our village PO lifted his eyebrows in wonder, and my credit card started to wilt. I spoke to a chum at work, he too raised his eyebrows at my spending, lifting them higher and higher as my spending spiralled horribly.

Where was Tasmanian Minimalist? Some had even called me their role model.

My credit cards and bank balance began to cry out and I realized in all my years of attempting to downshift my behaviour I was back at square one. Had I learned anything?

Well perhaps I had, because second time round I am more armed and hopefully slightly more dangerous with my ardor towards debt repayment and minimizing my possessions.

Possessions never made me happy, but I still could not stop buying. I finally realize that everything I see on TV, magazines, shop windows, bill boards is all about separating me from my money. It’s never about making my life better.

To that end, I have just stopped spending on anything other than food and debt repayment. It’s now a game and I am the winner.

Thank you for reading, please visit and follow me at or my clothes reduction blog at

{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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Bheng

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, I’m pleased to feature Bheng, who writes from the Philippines. Her story provides wonderful inspiration for those trying to declutter craft and hobby supplies! Please visit her blog to learn more.

Bheng writes:


I am a crafty person, I live and breathe crafts. I prefer to make my own things rather than buy them.

I dreamed of owning a craft shop, one where I can sell crafty tools and teach them as well. While waiting for the right time to put up that venture, I thought I can start completing the contents of that craft shop. As a result, I have collected 4 years worth of crafty stash: 150 or so crochet hooks, 50 pairs of knitting needles, about 15 kilos of yarns, and 10 boxes of crochet thread, one 4-layer bookshelf full of knitting and crochet books, and magazines from all over the world and a lot of other tools that I thought “I would need someday!”.

All of these fit an entire room in our apartment. You can say that after 4 years, this right time never came. As a result, I don’t have much savings, because most of my money went to all these items that I bought.

After I gave birth to my first child, I went through post partum depression. As a result I lost interest with all the things I own. I also had some financial issues then, and while thinking of ways to resolve this I realized that I really have to let them go.

My browsing for ideas around the web brought me to your website. I read about minimalism and I just know, right then and there, that this is the answer.

You are right when you say that sometimes, we buy things because of the promise that they hold. You are also right when you say, that sometimes, we buy things because we feed our imaginary career. When I read about these in your website, I had goosebumps. I felt as if this website is written for me. It’s like your teachings has awakened me.

I sorted out my crafty collection. I opened up an online store in Facebook, so I can sell them to crafters in the Philippines. All the yarns and crochet hooks got sold out in a matter of months. This destashing is still ongoing, and I hope at the end of this year, I will be able to liquidate these items, and bring down this crafting into just a small hobby.

I started this activity last August and I have made a very huge dent in this pile of crafty things already. Not only did I reclaim more space, I also have some substantial cashback. It also allowed me to pursue my real career in life. Limiting the craft in my life has allowed me to also focus my time with my family, and my baby.

I am gradually applying minimalism to other aspects in my life. This is really liberating!

I also write about my journey to crafty minimalism in my craft blog:

{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.}