Real Life Minimalists: Laura and Mark Tong

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, Laura and Mark Tong share their story. They radically downsized—from three houses to a small studio!—and have found substantially more freedom and fulfillment in their new minimalist lifestyle. Please visit their blog to read more.

Laura writes:

Laura and Mark

Laura and Mark

Okay, I admit it. I am a minimalism evangelist!

You know why?

Because I find minimalist living allows me to breathe and to think. It gives me the physical and mental space to truly enjoy the important things in life . . . like my husband, Mark. He’s unbelievably important to me, but incredibly, there was a time when I could hardly see him for all the clutter I had in my head and home!

As a couple we’ve had loads of fun downsizing hugely over the last ten years. We’ve decluttered our home, our lives and our thoughts. And we absolutely love the results.

There was a time that we had three houses, in three different countries. What a logistical nightmare that was. We could never remember what we’d left in each house so we’d end up transporting a whole home’s worth of everything back and forth each time.

There’s a good chance that a whole network of European home furnishing stores flourished entirely on the ludicrous amount of purchases we made. But still those houses felt rather empty and unloved, they never felt like home. Our heads were as cluttered as our homes.

And then there was the finances! Forever trying to transfer funds to different accounts in different currencies to pay bills in languages we didn’t understand. Oh boy, it got tiring. It got so we felt we were owned by our homes rather than us owning them.

And cars! We love cars, quirky, unusual cars but excessively owning four at one time was another perpetually onerous exercise that drained our energy and our wallets. Just keeping up with all the legal tests and taxes proved way too much for our already overburdened brains.

But it also led us onto a far better way of living. You see, the third time we forgot and were fined for having let the road tax expire on yet one more vehicle, we realized life had got completely out of control. We were drowning in possessions and the to-do lists (and bills!) that came with owning them.

Today we live in what is quaintly described as ‘a Studio’ which by any definition translates as ‘tiny’ but cosy. It’s basically four rooms, well okay, one main room, a tiny kitchen, a bathroom and a funny corridor area that functions perfectly as our office and dog-holding area.

My wardrobe is a 30cm wide shoulder height bookcase. Our bed folds out of the way and doubles our daytime space. As our chef, Mark has three kitchen gadgets: slow cooker, pasta server and a corkscrew. We own 4 physical books, but only because we wrote them.

Our friends bring food for our bird table or flowers for our tiny but bird and bee friendly garden as thank you gifts because they know we don’t ‘do stuff’. We love it. This truly feels like home.

We share a car, a quirky unusual little run around that has trundled us along 60,000 miles of European roadways in perfectly adequate, if cartoon-style comfort. It’s also been our sole house removal vehicle three times over.

Our minimalist lifestyle leaves us free to work on our blog, Enjoy Life Slowly. People can’t cope with everything they are supposed to do, be and own. They need a philosophy of living that puts quality of life first, like we believe minimalism does. Our blog helps people declutter their minds and lives so they can be happier and have quality of time for themselves, the things they love and the people they love.

Which is what becoming minimalist had done for us. It frees up huge amounts of our time (and income!) that we used to spend on low value tasks like shopping, tidying, cleaning, maintaining, replacing and insuring.

Our minimalist lifestyle truly allows us to breathe, to think and best of all, it allows us to enjoy life slowly together.

{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: Marissa

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, Marissa tells us how her new baby inspired her to reevaluate and reduce her family’s possessions. By minimizing her stuff, she’s able to maximize the time and attention she can give to her daughter.

Marissa writes:

This is our path towards a more intentional life.

I’ve always had some minimalist tendencies.

I grew up in a suburb where our neighbors had in home saunas next to their pools and sweet sixteen celebrations the size of weddings. While we didn’t live to quite that excess, the gifts spilled out from beneath the tree at Christmastime and shopping bags never failed to fill with each trip to the mall.

Feeling a bit unsettled with my surroundings, I would, on occasion, purge my room of all of the items I thought were junk. Each time, though, my mother would go through the trash/donation piles and make me hold onto the things that I didn’t personally care to keep because they were gifts or had sentimental value to her. I had accepted the ‘junk drawer’ into my life and just figured that was how people lived.

It wasn’t until my husband and I were expecting our first child that things began to change. We were living with my parents at the time and, due to our uncertain future, gratefully accepted any baby related gift or hand-me-down that came our way.

When we finally moved into our own home when our daughter was just 8 weeks old, we were overwhelmed with the amount of things we had acquired for this tiny human. Our eyes were opened to how easily we had fallen victim to baby advertisements and the world of gift registries. Of all the items we registered for and received, we have probably made use of less than 25% of them.

We are taking our time to decide what belongings are helping us and what items are hindering us from living the life we are yearning to live. We are expecting this process of reevaluating our possessions to last the rest of our lives as our lifestyle and needs as a family shift.

What has been the biggest gift so far? Instead of setting our daughter down in something to tend to our other things, we’ve found that we now have the time and the energy to give our new daughter (and pets and each other) our full and undivided attention.

We are already living a much richer life.

{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: Sarah

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 Sarah, whose words radiate the calm and peace that comes with a lighter lifestyle. Visit her blog to read more.

Sarah writes:



I had a messy bedroom my entire youth. Oh sure every once in a while I would be inspired to clean up all of my crap… cramming it into drawers and my closet, only to see it all toss itself on the floor and pile itself up on every flat surface it could find within a couple of days.

Then I became an adult and I soon had an entire house to fill up with “treasures” and junk. I would buy clothes that I loved… for a little while. If it was cheap and on sale, the chances that it would end up belonging to me increased at least 75%… if it was free it was definitely coming home with me. I loved yard sales and thrift stores and would spend weekends on “thrift” shopping sprees. Adding to the heaps of stuff I already owned.

Side note: I still love yard sales and thrift stores, but I approach them with much more intention than I used to.

Unfortunately all of these prized possessions started to create more havoc than pleasure. My cluttered house was a heavy burden. My attitude was crumby. I was stressed out. My stuff was making me a basket case.

It took me stepping back and realizing that nothing I had ever purchased was helping me be a better mom, a more loving wife or a kinder person. Not a single knickknack, piece of clothing or gadget made me a better human being. In fact my serial consumerism was even making me a worse citizen to the earth. My consumption of cheap goods meant that I was exploiting people who worked in abhorrent situations. Think sweatshops and slavery. And my habits were also causing more landfill waste.

Over the last year or so I have been taking steps to live more with less. My clothes have been paired down to the things I actually wear and love. My children’s toys are the ones they truly play with. The items in my home are switching over to what I use or believe to be beautiful.

I have readily adopted the attitude that I am worth being surrounded by peace. I am worth following my own passions. I am worth far more than other people’s perceived opinions of how I “should” live.

My children deserve a mom who has tossed aside the frazzled persona.

We all deserve the extra time we have to explore, snuggle, and pursue the activities that bring us joy.

It’s still a journey for us… and it may always be, but travelling this way is so much lighter now.

{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: Jennifer

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 some inspiration for all aspiring-minimalist families: Jennifer shares how she’s trying to pursue a pared-down lifestyle with 13 children (11 still at home)! Be sure to visit her blog to read more of her story.

Jennifer writes:

The first thing I minimized in my life was digital. I started there because it seemed easy, plus I was doubtful minimizing would make THAT much of a difference to someone who’s fairly OCD about organizing. I went through all the email I get regularly that I “junk” or “trash”, scrolled to the bottom and clicked unsubscribe. Sure it was a few minutes of my time to do something I didn’t want to do and it seemed like a waste. Until I was only getting things in my inbox that I wanted. Even that was cleaner, easier, no stress. I unsubscribed to a LinkedIn email (I use it for work, I check it, I don’t need email). The next day I got another email. I went onto the site and checked my settings. There are 27 opt in email alerts. TWENTY SEVEN!!!!! I realized why it’s so easy to get bogged down by crap in our lives that builds up – in literally every area. Minimizing isn’t about having a few too many forks. Now I’m in a habit. Every time I get an email I don’t want, I scroll down and unsubscribe. It’s AMAZING how much less bogged down I am online. I didn’t realize I dreaded checking email until I liked it again.

On Facebook, I tried to go through groups and people and “unfriend” but didn’t get very far. What DID work for me was reading through my news feed. That’s where the negativity showed up and every time I see a person or a group post things I really don’t want to read, I unfollow them. I want the positive in my life – the people, places and things that make me feel even better. Now I really enjoy reading my news feed and being a peripheral part of people’s lives.

The next thing I went through were the vehicles. I like certain things in my car (Advil, tampons, bandaids, benedryl, etc…) but I only need a few things. This was fast and easy and worth it. The house is still a work in progress and will probably take a couple months. Not putting pressure on myself to complete this project with a time-frame made a huge difference. Letting the house become more chaotic while we go through things helped. Just relaxing and somewhat enjoying the process was a way to give myself a break. Calling the MS agency that comes to the house with a truck for donations and setting a date made us accountable. Now we have rules to keeping things:

  •     Does it bring joy?
  •     Would we buy it right now?
  •     Will we use it?

A great side note about this process is that I’ve been somewhat quietly going about my business. We have 13 kids and 11 at home with 9 teenagers. Figuring out how to live a minimalism lifestyle with that volume of kids is an ongoing battle. The kids have been more passively involved. As we purged the home, I let them know the stack of things on the table or couch is being donated because I don’t think we need it, however if there is something they feel we should keep, we can discuss it. My kids are now starting to evaluate their own things.

Deciding to move was another huge catalyst in the minimalism lifestyle. Do we want to pack it, move it, unpack it?? Is it something we’re keeping because it’s sentimental? Do we need it to keep the memory? How and why is it worth bringing to a new home?? Leading by example – letting go of my own things that were very difficult to part with initially – showed our kids that it isn’t the stuff we have that makes a difference. The good news?? We’re playing more board games, because those we decided to keep.

Jennifer and her family

Jennifer and her family

{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: Neens Bea

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 lovely story from Neens Bea, who reminds us how a minimalist lifestyle leaves us free to embrace opportunities as they arise. Please visit her blog to read more about her experiences.

Neens Bea writes:

Neens Bea

Neens Bea

In February 2012, I had to go home to Norway to clear out all the stuff I had stored in my dad and step mum’s loft – they were downsizing to a smaller house, and would no longer have room to store stuff belonging to my sister and I. As I had to fly there and back, and had to be able to carry my luggage from plane to train and bus, I had to whittle everything down to just a 20 kg bag. It was a tough and emotional job, and I took pictures of everything I donated, recycled or discarded – everything from teddybears and collectible t-shirts, to handicraft made by my grandparents and parents. All my old diaries went up in flames. My mother kindly paid for the postage of sending my photo albums over in the post – three big boxes!

When I got back to my bungalow in Devon, UK, I was inspired by what I had achieved. I realised that it really is a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. I went through the house, donating books, unused kitchenware and clothes to charity. I enjoyed the freedom of having less – if you can’t remember that you own something, there really is no point in having it at all.

Just 3.5 months later, my relationship ended. While I pondered what to do with my future, I continued to whittle down my possessions. I would be moving out no matter what. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to go travelling around Europe in a van with my dog.

I sold my furniture, juicers, Vita-Mix, printer, jewellery – everything that might fetch a bit of money. I sold or donated all my books and bought a Kindle. I digitised all my photos, and took pictures of my photo albums before I got rid of them all. Now, all my photos are stored on a tiny USB. I also converted old cassette tapes I wanted to keep to MP3 files, and VHS recordings to DVDs.

I pared my clothes down to a bare minimum – and settled on a colour scheme to ensure everything could be mixed and matched. I sought out bathroom products that could do more than one job.

I used up all the food in the house, both to save money and to help empty the cupboards. I lived without a fridge and freezer for 13.5 months, in preparation for living out of a van with no fridge/freezer. Then I slowly started moving out of the various rooms, to make sure everything I owned would fit in a tiny space, and that I would be happy living that way.

In September 2013, Albert and I left Devon in my van. On our way to Dover we stopped in Surrey to visit a friend. While there, I started getting nervous about the whole thing. I noticed that I kept having to ask my friend to look after Albert when I ran errands or popped into shops. Sure, while in Europe, I could either tie him up outside (except I’m terrified of dognappers) or leave him in the van (but only for a few minutes in the summer heat). Suddenly it dawned on me that although what I was planning on doing can be done, I didn’t want to do it. Not on my own. I would love to go travelling with someone else, but doing it on my own with a dog I love so much I can’t leave him unattended is just not feasible. So I panicked. Then I cried. Then I decided that “there is no shame in turning around” (which fellow Norwegians will recognise as Mountain Rule no. 8).

Then, out of the blue, a friend e-mailed me to say that a friend of hers was moving out of a tiny, fully furnished flat in a tiny village in Devon. She wasn’t sure if I would consider returning to Devon, and she didn’t know if the landlords would allow a dog, but she wanted to let me know just in case.

Well, I’m writing this article from that ‘flatlet’. It is 31.5 m2 (339 sq feet), including stairs and sloping walls. In this Devon village, I have found a wonderful community, made lots of great friends, joined choirs, book groups and music societies… And I would never have been able to move here, had it not been for the fact that everything I own now can fit in my van.

{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: Mary Milanowski

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, Mary Milanowski from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, shares how a vacation condo inspired her to pare down her possessions and pursue a simpler lifestyle.

Mary writes:



For as long as I can remember, I have always preferred a tidy home with simple décor and fewer possessions. Yet somehow during my adulthood I still managed to accumulate more things than I actually wanted or needed.

I can trace the moment when I decided to let it all go. My conversion to minimalism and simple living began while away on a weekend vacation. For a few relaxing days, I stayed in a condominium hotel near a lake in a quiet resort town. Unlike a traditional hotel room, the condo had a living room with a dining area, a bedroom, a bathroom and a small kitchenette. It was both modern and cozy. I liked how the kitchen had only a few basic tools for preparing a meal. There were four matching dinner plates, four beverage glasses and coffee mugs, and just a handful of cooking pans and utensils. It was a pleasant and sensible set-up. Each of the rooms was neatly and aesthetically furnished. There was no clutter and nothing out of place. The condo’s appearance reminded me of the famous quote by William Morris: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

After my peaceful vacation ended, I went home, looked around at the excess I had accumulated over the years and began the process of removing many of the duplicates I owned. I tossed or donated hundreds of unloved and unneeded possessions. Out went clothes, shoes, jewelry, papers, books, trinkets, knickknacks, record albums, obsolete electronic devices and the seldom-if-ever-used specialty kitchen gear I had accumulated in my thirties. It was a lot of work, but very freeing.

In recent years, I have continued to develop my enthusiastic appreciation of simple living. I downsized my household once again (by donating and discarding old furniture) and discovered something wonderful in the process. With fewer “things” to own and maintain, I have more open space and more free time for myself. By getting rid of no longer needed possessions, I feel I have opened up the possibility of having new experiences, rather than things, to take their place. As a single person, that’s important to me.

These days, I am happy to live more simply. By following a few websites and books related to the voluntary simplicity movement, I am constantly motivated and inspired by the stories and ideas of like-minded people.

{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: Daisy Chain

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, I’m happy to feature Daisy Chain. She shares with us both the inspiration behind her minimalist journey, and the steps she’s taken to simplify her life.

Daisy Chain writes:

Growing up I wouldn’t have described myself as minimalist – like lots of girls I collected fancy papers, smelly soaps, postcards, cuddly toys etc. I was neat and tidy but I loved my stuff. But at some point stuff started to stress me out. Weirdly it started with toiletries/cosmetics and music. Receiving and owning fancy creams etc. made me feel bad because I am very low maintenance and I felt guilty for not using them but just couldn’t make myself do it! As a teenager, the music you were into defined who you were, so I would get stressed about buying CDs. What did owning this CD say about me?! This all sounds pretty strange but I think it just meant that I was starting to disengage from the concept of my stuff defining me.

Last summer was a particular turning point when I realised that there is practically nothing that I own that I would be really sorry to see go. I like lots of things I own but really don’t have much attachment to them.

Three things in particular stand out: First, my mum decided to distribute the items she had kept from her mother among the grandchildren and while my first reaction was to take it all, this was quickly followed by a decision to just take some practical items that I know I will use (the big mixing bowl and the cake decorating set!!). Secondly, I went through all my old photos and kept only a couple from each holiday/event to prompt the memories of the event and who was there – I don’t need every single picture.

But the biggest step was when I re-read all the letters I had received from friends from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties, with the intention of throwing them away afterwards. They brought back so many memories and I had some laughs and shed some tears. But I realised that those letters told the story of the life of the writer, not my story, so I gave them back to the person to whom they really belonged. I’m kind of hoping that they don’t return the favour!

My home is still far from bare thanks to my husband and daughters but that’s ok – it’s a work in progress – they are slowly getting the message that I am much happier when I am not falling over things on my way around the house and when I can start on a job without clearing a load of stuff out of the way first. And, to paraphrase – when momma is happy, everyone’s happy! My husband teases me that I can’t be a minimalist when I say I don’t like the bareness of the homes you see in Scandinavian dramas, but I think a bit of colour can be introduced in furnishings, curtains, pictures etc without cluttering up the surfaces of a home. It’s all about what works for each person.

I just want to share one other thing with you all – I was listening to the soundtrack of the movie ‘Into the Wild’ recently. It is about a man called Christopher McCandless, who really did try to live the ultimate minimalist lifestyle. But what caught my attention was the lyrics to the song ‘Society’. It seems to me to be an anthem for the minimalist movement. I would love you to have a listen to it on youtube and tell me what you think.

The more people who can be happy with less, the better chance there is for this small planet of ours.

Thank you to all my fellow minimalists, every week I am reassured that it’s not just me who thinks this way!

{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: Pierre

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 hear from Pierre, who details the life changes that started him down a minimalist path, and the joy he’s found in paring down.

Pierre writes:

I have been considering minimalism for a few years, but until a few years ago I got nowhere. I used to live a life of accumulation like many people and had so many things that might come in handy one day, most of which were in the loft. In around 1995 my wife suggested getting a skip and filling it with our accumulated detritus but I wasn’t ready. Ha not me! I needed more stuff.

But then several things happened. First…marriage ended and I became solely responsible for the family detritus. Second…I moved house and realised what a pile of utter rubbish I had accumulated and had to move. Third…I moved into a smaller place and just had to get rid of stuff. Fourth… Work opportunities came up that gave me the chance to work abroad and this was the killer blow. Paying for storage rankled and I ended up giving a huge pile of stuff to Oxfam, which made me feel good on two counts. Also stuff I ‘really needed’ went to a friend’s house and now I can’t even remember what I gave her. I will never ask for it back. Fifth…I eventually moved into a rented apartment, so no tools or DIY stuff needed. I love it. Sixth…I gave up camping and gave all the gear away. Seventh… I sold my daughter’s piano. She never played it and had grown up and gone to University. Eighth… I outgrew a massive bunch of clothes and donated the lot. Ninth…I got an e-reader. No more books to cart around the place. Tenth… No more CD’s. All on a hard drive now. Eleventh…No more documents or photos. All scanned and on the same hard drive. Twelfth… no monkey on my back carting all this stuff around in my head (sorry to mix the metaphor).

I still have a way to go and I am loving the journey. I have an ambition to be able to get all my worldly possessions in a modest size van (or smaller) when I retire in a few years’ time. I still accumulate cooking utensils and always have way more bathroom gear than I need but my imperfections are mine and I love them.

It has absolutely been a cathartic journey for me and I have a long way to go and am immensely looking forward to it. Best wishes to everyone in their 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: Elizabeth

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, Elizabeth tells us how moving to Thailand, starting a microbusiness, and living a simple life has helped her family maximize their time together. To read more of her inspiring story, please visit her website.

Elizabeth writes:



Simple living was something I grew up with as a child. Our house in France had little room for stuff. Clothing and food were pricey, so whenever we bought something, we wanted it to be nice and serve a purpose. We valued books and would go antiquing.

Half of my childhood was spent in the States, in a small town in the Midwest. There was initially no superstore like Walmart and we had very few options of things to buy. But shortly after my Father passed away, I moved to Los Angeles and felt the constant pressure to be more and have more. My standards changed and I attempted to mask feelings of inadequacy with stuff. And debt.

Shortly before our daughter was born, my husband and I made the decision to raise her outside the States and had considered moving closer to my childhood home in France. We traveled around for years and ended up on an island in Thailand. We have no car, and live quite frugally. I am in no way, shape, or form the perfect minimalist as I do happen to collect a few things (such as books) but we try to cook often at home and support local small businesses. We value time together as a family, and use natural remedies over conventional.

Life is simple and slow, and frequently boring. But we use our time to pursue creative endeavors and I became an entrepreneur, working from home when I’m not homeschooling our daughter. My husband and I have made it a priority that we both fit work around family life, and not the other way around. He has a holistic health site and works with a friend of ours online, and I do Life + Social Media Coaching as well as freelance writing. Finding the right way to start a business (or a microbusiness) was a huge challenge and it took us years to balance our creative interests with what was in demand (and profitable). In the end, I focused on helping holistic business owners like yoga teachers and Life Coaches with their online platforms. I believe in their work, and want to help them make a difference in the world.

I could never go back to a fast paced lifestyle that places a heavy emphasis on debt and owning as much as possible. I value quality and don’t mind paying more for things that will last longer, but I don’t hit up Target and amass tons of useless stuff either. That being said, there are different ways people we know have simplified their lives. Several of our friends live out of their backpacks, and we don’t view the differences in our lifestyles as being better or more ‘minimalist’. Minimalism and simplicity are both personal choices and therefore differ greatly person to person. At the end of the day, we’re united on our quest of enjoying life more and not being weighed down by possessions or constraints.

One of the greatest influences on our journey to simplicity has been watching how our Thai neighbors and friends live their lives. While some work for the big hotels and are working 24/7, many own microbusinesses or work with their family members. No matter what income level, they generally prefer home cooking or street food to the fancier dining establishments. Foraging for wild fruits and veg is also a regular part of the Phuket life. But like everywhere else, materialism has gained traction here and what the Thais call ‘hi-so’ has emerged: the quest for more beauty, more luxury, and fame.

No person in this world (nor place) is immune to materialism, but we can all become mindful of what brings us joy, and where our priorities lie. If you want good health, focus on high quality food, ideally home-cooked. If you want to feel creatively fulfilled, don’t minimize your hobbies and consider even making a business out of your artistic abilities. If you want more time spent with loved ones, begin researching how to start a microbusiness from home.

Our path to simplicity wasn’t an easy one, but we have no regrets.

{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: Sacha

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, Sacha reminds us that even if you don’t consider yourself a “minimalist,” paring down and simplifying your life can bring much peace and happiness.

Sacha writes:

I have never been and will never be a minimalist. As a child I firmly believed that 10 ten cent coins were more than a guilder, I can always find a new use for anything and as a child of a former antiques dealer, my heart flutters when looking at a beautifully made article from the 1920s. There is something about Art Deco that tickles my greedy…. o well…. you get the picture, I’m sure!

I am also not a pack rat or hoarder, thank God… I just had a lot of things. When I decided to move house and relocate to a different part of the Netherlands, I walked through my house every day and asked myself “are you going to take this with you to your new house?” I was surprised to hear myself say “no” to many things. I sold most of my furniture, antiques and collectables over the course of  a year. During that year I chose not to buy much apart from food and saved the money and a big part of my regular income so I could use it to lower my future mortgage.

I also looked at my clothes… many went to goodwill or were used as rags. All shoes which were uncomfortable also went in the goodwill bag. I (and most certainly the boxes) felt lighter by doing that. Still, I do own some items that I hardly wear, but I smile when I see them, so they are staying (for now). Maybe they won’t survive a future decluttering round, but who knows.

I didn’t know this, but this was just the start… and the easy part. I also started to declutter in another area and stumbled across something well hidden. No stroke of genius, but completely by accident.

Maybe you guys know a tv show called Doomsday Preppers… my personal doomsday would be the day I might lose my job (which hasn’t actually happened) and I was afraid I might not have enough money to buy food. Well… suffice to say: the kitchen cupboard doors could be closed… but only just.

When I decided to move, I also decided to put an end to this whole doomsday idea and stop being afraid of what might happen…. and bought a house with space for a vegetable garden. That way I could be a producer instead of a consumer and as far as I know vegetables have no idea how much money you have in your bank account, they just need enough sun and rain. They grow and I eat them… it is simple, really.

My kitchen cupboards started to empty and I found out I have everything I need for healthy meals without running to the shops every other day. With my vegetable garden I manage to have a steady supply of fresh greens during summer and autumn, in autumn I also have loads of fruits and my two beautiful little ladies give me a steady supply of eggs during most of the year… I have rediscovered preserving food (as a child of the 1970s I grew up with that) and I make candied tomatoes, jams, chutneys, pickles and sauces to give away as presents and to eat with my home made breads. Unfortunately, last year my grape vines had an enormous yield of about 20 grapes, so home made wine is out of the question for now.

To my own surprise I am discovering that I need less and less stuff and food and that I feel good about that. I am enjoying the Good Life (look it up on YouTube) and getting re-acquainted with my happy hippy inner child again when picking my salad greens and I can share this good life and good food with friends and neighbours. I am taking my life in my own hands again because I am stepping back from the rat race and buying stuff to silence the nagging feeling of “what-if”. Who would have guessed?

{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.}