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:

Mary

Mary

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:

Elizabeth

Elizabeth

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.}

Real Life Minimalists: Marianne

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 Marianne, who tells us how decluttering her stuff has brought her more happiness than owning it.

Marianne writes:

Marianne and her mom

Marianne and her mom

I grew up in a house that was perpetually cluttered. Not hoarders but just a lot of stuff. I would visit friends houses and dream of having all that space in a neat and tidy home. I have two parents that would rarely part with things (and had a lifetime full of stuff) – my dad restored antiques and repaired furniture – many times people would give him castoffs, etc, that he would always accept. My mom loves to shop and has packed many closets full of clothing in the house.

As a kid, I always wanted something on vacation or at the stores…we were middle class to lower middle class – always had enough but didn’t get the brand name clothes that many of my classmates had. When I would convince my mom or dad to buy me a souvenir or other thing from a store, I would be so happy for a while…and then it would fade.

I honestly felt, when I was younger, that money could buy happiness. I would dream of maybe some day being able to just buy whatever I wanted with my earnings. I became a veterinarian, my life long dream and made a living wage. I actively paid down student loans but also started to buy some “big girl” furniture. After years of old furniture that never seemed to leave the house, I bought a sofa and chair. I bought my parents a sofa as a sort of thank you for supporting me and loving me throughout my journey (my pets also destroyed some of their items:).

I moved back in with my parents after vet school to save money. The beautiful sunshine basement was like the cemetery for old furniture and other discarded household things. I began slowly unearthing space for myself by getting permission to donate some of these items. My brother and I used to call our house “the magic shop”, because we seemed to have absolutely EVERYTHING you could think of. It was honestly overwhelming to think of the amount of STUFF that resided (and still resides) in that house. Of course I also had plenty of my own treasures….stuff that I had purchased here and there and in my travels. I had an entire bookcase of printed vet school notes that I lugged home in binders.

I had been fairly active decluttering over the last five years or so but the big kicker came when I was on a trip to Portland, Oregon last year. My friend, Molly and I were in Portland to run a marathon and have a short vacation. We both love thrift store shopping and found a great one in Portland where we each bought a lot of clothing items. We also went to Powell’s books and went a little crazy buying books and other fun items. Then there was a farmers market that sold interesting bags, hats, etc. a leather owl purse made it home with me that day – I just had to have it! All this retail therapy (for some reason) left my head spinning! I got home and felt the need to make a change. I realized that I had many fun and interesting purses that I almost never used – I pretty much always used the same one.

Initially, I had a hard time letting go of these types of things because I had spent good money on them and they were very usable. I also had gifts that people had given me that sat unused with the tags on. I had an entire table of such items that sat almost untouched in my family room for almost a year while I fretted about what to do with them…and then I pretty much just pulled the ripcord. Countless trips to the local catholic thrift store were made. Some items that were unused, I gave as gifts to others or for auction items for charitable events. Some particularly hard items to rid myself of I sold on eBay, which was probably more hassle than it was worth but at least they’re gone. My excitement for decluttering has encouraged my mom (with my gentle urging) and dad to let go of some things. It has honestly become like an addiction.

I was deployed with the Veterinary Corps of the US Army to Kuwait this past July and I was excited to see how little I could travel with. We were allowed four duffles and I probably had 2.5. It was a little bit of a struggle to not buy tons of cool souvenirs from the Middle East. I bought a few things but not much…mainly because I know how painful it is to declutter it once I’ve bought these items. I travelled to another country from Kuwait for 11 days with just a carryon backpack and a small laptop bag. I even had less than the men on the trip!

The thing that I am struggling with now is that it is not about the stuff. Achieving minimalism for me needs to be about clearing the stuff so that I can make room for what’s important and I’m just not sure what that is. I love God, my family and friends, my pets, traveling. This deployment has been a good change for me to shake up my routine and try to prioritize things in my life. I’m 39 and am still in my parents basement (by choice) but maybe it’s time to try something different. I love to read blogs like this about decluttering and minimalism but it’s very easy to lose the forest for the trees. I need to start thinking less about physical decluttering and more about how that helps me be the best version of myself for this world.

{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: Maureen

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, Maureen shares with us a very interesting story of how she came to live in her van. I’ve always been fascinated with such alternative (and minimalist) living arrangements; if you are too, I encourage you to visit her blog to read more.

Maureen writes:

My name is Maureen and over three years ago I decided to sell almost everything I owned and sleep in my van.

My youngest child had left home for college and I decided that since it was just me now to take care of, I didn’t have to work 2-3 jobs anymore to keep a very expensive roof over our heads. I also felt I didn’t need to maintain (dust, vacuum, wipe, scrub etc.) a two bedroom condo any longer. It helped that for many years I had admired people I’d read about who lived in vans, caves, shacks, etc.

Free-sleeping in a van isn’t the path for everyone, but I had long ago grown tired of dusting knickknacks and organizing clutter (as so many people have mentioned) by moving it from place to place to place in my condo over the years, and I felt van living was a way out for me.

Once I made the decision to sleep in my van, I got a 5 X 5 storage unit to keep most of my earthly possessions in. Naturally I keep a few things in my van too. I haven’t missed any of the things I threw away.

It has been an interesting journey. As an entrepreneur-in-training, not having rent or utilities to pay and not having a medium sized home to clean all the time has allowed me to pursue different business ideas without being exhausted all the time and without having to worry about well..ending up homeless!

It has been hard at times. Sometimes I earn barely enough to keep my van running, and I have had to take a good hard look at myself and decide whether I should work harder and more so I can keep my van, or if I should let it go and move back into a home. I also could go live with my folks again if I got really desperate, but I would only consider that as a last resort.

I have also learned that there’s no free lunch. I thought I would be a little lazy, sleeping in by van but even a van needs upkeep and cleaning once in a while. I still need to obtain food and clothing. As long as I’m alive I’m probably going to have to make some kind of effort.

I have also learned that unless I go live somewhere alone in the woods (which I can’t do because I need to work to get money) I still have to learn to deal with people, even the difficult ones. This means de-cluttering my life of habits and judgments that have held me back from good relationships.

One of the most important things that is happening is that I am learning to de-clutter my mind from what everyone thinks of me. Whether it is free-sleeping in my van, my clothes, my age or whatever, people are always going to have their opinions, but it is up to me how I feel about myself.

Believe it or not, I am still in the process of de-cluttering my possessions, because even though I have much less in terms of material goods than many people, I find the “stuff” I still own a burden, mentally and financially. I pay around $70 a month for my storage unit, for heaven’s sake!

The joy is in the journey and I’m still a-traveling. If anyone wants to learn about the simplicity of van living, please check out my blog where I chronicle my three and a half years of growth: www.livinginmyvan.com.

{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: Jared Brock

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 inspiring story from Jared Brock, the author of A Year of Living Prayerfully (a humorous travel memoir about prayer). He tells us how minimalism has helped him and his wife tackle projects like founding charities, making documentaries, and traveling the world.

Jared writes:

Jared

Jared

A few years ago, my wife and I asked some friends to help us move. We packed our bags, rented a moving van, and assumed we’d be done by lunch.

It lasted all day.

It was exhausting and embarrassing – we had so much stuff. As I watched my friends sweat and struggle to haul out my belongings, I realized that my possessions had come to possess me. Right then and there, I vowed to myself that I would never put my friends through anything like that again.

Our minimalist adventure started slowly. We started by purging many of the wedding gifts that we had received. Then we took the 100 Things Challenge and pared down our number of possessions to a total of 88 combined items for a 5-month-long backpacking trip. It was one of the most freeing seasons of our lives. We encountered a lot of poverty as we traveled through seven Central American countries, but we also started to cultivate gratefulness and contentment in our lives, and a deep desire to do good in the world. It changed us forever.

Today we live in a shiny 1975 Airstream trailer. We don’t own a microwave or TV. I don’t drink coffee or bottled water, I mostly buy used clothes, and I’m a vegetarian. We’re carbon neutral, and we don’t even own cell phones. It’s been so freeing – it takes 5 minutes to clean the house, and 10 minutes to pack for a trip. We have way more time for friends – we spend most of our summer nights around the campfire. We’ll take relationships and experiences over possessions, any day.

My wife runs a charity to fight human trafficking, and living simply gave us the ability to make a 10-country documentary about this immense injustice. I recently completed a 37,000-mile prayer pilgrimage around the world – I met the Pope, danced with rabbis, visited North Korea and Westboro Baptist Church, walked on coals, revived my prayer life, and then wrote a book about the wild ride. Without intentional simplicity, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy these incredible adventures. Minimalism is the tool that has helped us free up a margin of time and money in order to work on meaningful projects that we feel called to do.

It’s worth every penny, and every second.

{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: Dominique

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 Dominique, who shares with us this touching tribute to her minimalist father. Please visit her blog to read more about her journey to simplicity.

Dominique writes:

Dominique

Dominique

It just occurred to me today while I was reading minimalism testimonials online on the Miss Minimalist website that my dad was a minimalist. My mom isn’t, but my dad was.

My dad passed away on October 11, 2014. The day after his 64th birthday. It’s still very recent and very difficult to accept that I can’t see him, hug him or hear him anymore. My father’s voice was so sweet to me. He didn’t give himself enough credit for the incredible man that he was. But maybe his modesty added to his greatness.

Anyway, my dad didn’t have or want many things. Growing up, I saw my dad use the exact same orange hair brush every day, and the same green plastic glass whenever he wanted to drink pop. My sister and I joked that those two items would be our inheritance. This was years before he got sick with COPD.

He was hard to shop for when it came to birthday and Christmas presents. He didn’t have many regular hobbies. Life for him was all about family. We’d ask him what he wanted. He would always say “Nothing. I just want to be with you guys”. So we would often just get him clothes because he never bought any for himself.

One of my favourite memories of a “present” that I gave my dad one year for his birthday was when I invited my parents, my sister and her family, and my dad’s last living sister to supper in my new house. My aunt Hélène’s husband, uncle Pierinot, had recently passed away. I had made my first turkey dinner and it turned out great. My dad was just so thrilled that we were together. He kept saying over and over again how pleased he was and how this was his best birthday. I was so proud to make him so happy. I really loved making him happy!

I’m so thankful that my dad was a minimalist. I hear of so many families who are torn apart over inheritances. By being a minimalist, my dad spared us any possible fights (although, he and my mom raised us right and I can’t really imagine that my sister and I would have fought over anything). He also spared us the guilt of having to give away things he left behind. I don’t think it was intentional. He just didn’t care about things. Well, he didn’t care about acquiring things. What he had he took care of, for a very long time. Whenever he got rid of something, it was because it was well worn out.

So what did we get? What was his legacy? In no particular order: we got a great example of devotion to family, of honesty, of work ethic, of love, of tremendous strength, of sincerity, of quiet wisdom, of forgiveness, of responsibility, of humility, of humour, of hope, of respect, of simplicity.

My sister got the green plastic glass, and I got dad’s orange brush.

{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.}