Real Life Minimalists: Maria

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 Maria, who shares a powerful and inspirational perspective on decluttering the excess paperwork in our lives.

Maria writes:

Photo by Maria

My minimalist blind spot: paper.

My mother passed on in 2009 and my father followed this summer. Decades of more (or less) organized paper archives were left behind: phone bills, bank statements, legal and medical papers, clippings from magazines, articles cut out from newspapers, books, notebooks, travel catalogs, travel memorabilia, magazines, and recipes. Hundreds of photos and negatives those were loose or enveloped in shoe boxes. In addition to the weeks it took to go through it all, it was also so very depressing: to learn true details of events that you had been told otherwise or to read the gory details of your parent’s cancer history. It was mostly a sad archive. One cannot help wondering why you would archive the sad moments of your life so carefully. Why not throw out it all when you can? Then the wannabe life archives made me sad: all those recipes and travel locations I know my parents never tried or visited. Why not? Should I have known?

After going through my parents’ papers I dug into my own archives. I quickly realized that I had diaries, clippings, articles, recipes, piles of business cards from past jobs, double or triple photo sets, negatives, tax archives, dream/vision boards, all Christmas greetings I’ve ever received, letters, cards, stamps, all kid’s art from school, Mother’s Day cards and kids’ birthday greetings. All this neatly boxed or in binders in our walk-in closet, desk drawers, kids’ rooms, bookshelves – just everywhere.

There – I had done exactly as my dear parents: archived my real life and wannabe life. After the total embarrassment came determination. It dawned to me that I want my kids to be free from any hidden or visible paper burdens from the past generations. It ends here. I’m cleaning this paper junk out of our lives!

Gone is now that fits into 10 standard moving boxes (volume total 690 liters = 170 dry gallons). While some paper is handled once and for all, other papers need maybe four times before I can finally let go. I have now accepted this and am being both gentle and firm with myself. I feel like the house has more air, the air is fresher and the light shining in from the windows is brighter. It was a heavy load hidden in all those boxes and binders. I am rising like a Phoenix bird from the burned paper piles into freedom!

So my dear minimalist friends: what have you done lately with any paper that enters your home? Archived it? Why? Dig deeper and see what paper you tend to archive. See it all through a stranger’s eyes: when finding it, will it make you happy, sad or wonder why on Earth this paper was saved? Does it reveal a Fantasy-me identity? Does it carry a clear illusion around it that this item may be worth a lot of money just because it is very old?

Simply and bravely toss all paper you can because our generation will be the first to leave behind both paper and electronic personal archives. Use whatever motivation trick you know to get rid of the piled paper and stop the paper flow into your home: stop buying magazines and printing stuff and start to use all e-services you possibly can for banking, healthcare, business catalogs – you know what it is! Let go and trust that you will be fine without all that paper. Enjoy walks in the forest and hug trees knowing that the paper you never need anymore may live on in that tree.

{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: Judy

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, Judy shares the details of how she pared down her possessions—and in the process, passed down her minimalist values to the next generation.

Judy writes:

I don’t remember what first brought me to this site, but I do remember what steered me towards being a minimalist. I watched the first 2 seasons of hoarders. And after watching all the horrific episodes, I was done being a consumer. I buy food, personal hygiene items, and replacement items as needed, but I rarely buy a non-essential item anymore, and if I do, I buy it with the intention of passing it forward.

My quest started a few years ago: I needed to move quickly, but I couldn’t take all my stuff with me. I left most of my furniture and (collected/sentimental) belongings with a friend for 6 months. Once I was able, I moved everything, but once I had everything, I really began to question why I cared about all that stuff anyway. I lived without it for 6 months, why did I think I needed it…? Because it was mine! But I decided that wasn’t a good enough reason.

So I began paring down my belongings. Board games were the first to go; I sold them on craigslist or Amazon. Then books, which I sold at half-price books and gave away to co-workers. Then movies, given away to family and co-workers. Then clothes, all the clothes that I hadn’t worn in a while (or ever) and others that I didn’t like how they looked on me, all given to Goodwill. Then other random crap that I had accumulated that I had zero reasons to hold onto, either thrown out or to Goodwill. The guys at Goodwill started to recognize me after a while, asked me why I was giving away all my stuff. The most poignant item for me was a school yearbook. It was from the 7th grade. I’m pretty sure I had only looked at it 2-3 times over the years, and when I tried to open it, it had gotten wet and all the pages were stuck together. Recycled … along with my junior yearbook. It was at this point when my daughter really started to pay attention.

My daughters knew that I was getting rid of most of my stuff, but it wasn’t until something they considered sentimental was thrown out that they decided to speak up. My older daughter was upset because now she wouldn’t have MY 7th grade yearbook to show to HER children. (She doesn’t have any children, they are hypothetical.) I just shrugged, told her it wasn’t and hadn’t been useful to me for many years. She fumed.

Fast forward about a year. She’s experienced living on her own and is completely independent at 19. She has a very good job for her age and uses public transportation because she doesn’t have a car. After a year of “working for a living” and having no savings to show for it, she’s decided that the “American dream” is not her goal. Please read her story in her own words at gofundme.com/dkzs18 update #1.

I am so proud of my daughter for being more of a grown up than I’ve ever been. I feel that she gets it; she knows what life is all about. She knows what she wants, and it’s not what her peers or the media tells her she should do, it’s what will make her and her future family happy.

Not only have I been able to pass most of my accumulated belongings forward, but my actions have passed on minimalism to the next generation.

{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: Jacob Jolibois

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 happy to introduce you to Jacob Jolibois, who shares with us his minimalist journey and the joy it’s brought to his life. Please visit his blog to read more of his writing.

Jacob writes:

Jacob

Jacob

Due to my obsession with productivity, organization and efficiency, I had stumbled upon minimalist thinking sometime during my sophomore or junior year in college. I was learning to de-clutter my mind, stop worrying over things I had no power to change and focus on the things that actually mattered. Thanks to this mindset and a sort of involuntary minimalist lifestyle brought about by being a poor college student I was able to write and publish a book (ARROWS) before my 22nd birthday. The book eventually expanded into a blog called The Archer’s Guild where I post three times a week on living vibrantly which has some of its roots in minimalist living.

Essentially, I was inspired to minimalist tendencies by things that ‘just work’. Well-made tools, thought-provoking books, rapidly-growing start-ups – everything that I loved was reduced down to its most basic form. It was simple. This past summer I was backpacking across Europe with no more than a carry-on’s worth of gear. Once again, the simplicity felt right.

At this point I actually had no idea about “minimalism” as a concept and it wasn’t until the latter half of my travels that I stumbled upon Joshua Becker’s blog, Becoming Minimalist and Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus’ blog, The Minimalists. Through these two blogs I began to understand the philosophies and practices behind minimalism. For a few weeks after diving in, the prospect of living with fewer than 100 things was rather appealing – especially since I didn’t have all that much to begin with (starving college student, remember?). However, as I began to consider minimalism at its core – removing excess to make room for the meaningful – I realized that owning things wasn’t a bad practice as long as those things contributed value to my life. This opened up an entirely new way of living, thinking, and investing.

I bagged up about 50% of my clothes and brought them to Goodwill. I gave some of the unnecessary things I owned to my school’s theater department to be used as props. I threw out two garbage bags full of junk that I was collecting and never used. I just moved into my new living space which is only one room with a bathroom off to the side and it’s absolutely perfect. The space is small but not cluttered. I look forward to a life that is, at its core, all about the experiences – all about the stories.

I don’t need stuff to have a peace about life – I have my faith. I don’t need stuff to get butterflies in the pit of my stomach – breathtaking views and my girlfriend will do the trick. I don’t need stuff to be happy – friends, good conversation, a cup of coffee and a bonfire sounds just perfect. Contentment with less is a beautiful and energizing practice that inspires action and advances my story.

{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: Aselle

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 hear from Aselle, whose newly minimalist lifestyle was inspired by a major move. Be sure to visit her blog to learn more about her experience.

Aselle writes:

Aselle

Aselle

Last year when my husband & I made the decision to relocate to Sydney, Australia from Auckland, New Zealand for career reasons, we were forced into a minimalist lifestyle. We were moving out of our three bedroom house in New Zealand and into a 15m2 studio in Sydney. When we prepared for the move I was flabbergasted by how much stuff we had. How can a young couple accumulate so much stuff? There were boxes and boxes of appliances, some were given to us as wedding presents and others we had purchased, and all of them were mostly unused. My hard-earned wages were staring me in the face as shoes and handbags. In fact I had managed to grow out of my walk-in closet in our bedroom and fill both of the wardrobes in our two spare bedrooms with my clothes and accessories. The move forced us to pack our lives into two suitcases in preparation for crossing the Tasman (or crossing the ditch as we call it Down Under). The rest of our belongings were either sold, given to friends, or stored at my parents’ house.

When we moved to Sydney into our centrally located small studio, I was too busy living our new adventure and experiencing this new city to miss any of my possessions that were sitting in storage in my parents’ attic. After a few months when we upgraded to our 44m2 1 bedroom apartment  in central Sydney, my mum asked me if I would like to ship any of my belongings across but I had gotten used to the simplicity and convenience of our new lifestyle and I didn’t want to clutter it. Now every time I go home, I make time to dispose of more of my stored belongings and I am gradually getting there.

Our new lifestyle is a far cry from what it was less than 18 months ago. We take public transport or walk everywhere now.  We love using Sydney as our backyard and we meet our friends at coffee shops or restaurants. You can follow our adventure and our new life in Sydney on http://kingsdownunder.com so pay us a visit as we would love to connect with you.

{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: SimpleBean

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 a beautiful contribution from SimpleBean, who shares a poignant reflection on what matters most in life.

SimpleBean writes:

This month, my grandparents decided to move to an assisted living facility. My grandfather’s brother, my great-uncle, also decided to gracefully end his losing battle with chronic illness by entering hospice. I traveled to see all three of them and start saying my goodbyes: to my great-uncle, mainly, but also to both of my grandparents’ homes. To say that my family is experiencing loss at this time would be a bit of an understatement.

The death of my kind, gentle, wise great-uncle hits home to me that the most precious thing we have in this life is the people we love. Of all of the things that we have or experience, people alone are irreplaceable. My heart breaks for my grandfather, my great-aunt, my cousins, and my extended family as a whole. My family will keep his legacy and love with us. We simply no longer have the joy of seeing or hearing him.

This great loss dwarfs the other losses of my grandparents, but those are real, too. My grandparents will lose the little bit of independence that they have clung to since my grandmother experienced a catastrophic stroke many years ago. My grandfather has been depended on to perform all of the daily acts of living for both of them. Now, he can no longer pick himself up off the floor when he falls, let alone my grandmother. They will enter a facility in which their basic needs will be more than met and they will live in a beautiful one-bedroom apartment. However much they may look forward to, they will leave much behind. My grandfather, a carpenter, designed and built both of his homes himself and, until recently, carried out all of the work and maintenance on them. The walls echo with the memory of distant voices: three children, then two grandchildren, then five great-grandchildren, most of whom are now too old to sit in their laps.

These homes were never messy, but they are still bursting with items that hold memories and happiness. Most of these things will now need to go somewhere else: to the estate sale, or various basements, or charity. As my grandfather stood in one of his homes for the last time, he ran his hand across a simple yet beautiful coat rack: “I made this, you know.” He surveyed his spotless oak kitchen cabinets, his carefully-selected dining room furniture, the light fixtures he took such care to install himself. He held back the tears and silently witnessed the special space he had created for his later years. I asked him, “Grandpa, is there anything there that is your very favorite, that you want to make sure makes it into your new place?” He answered me, “I can’t even begin to choose. Everything here is something I love.”

Their sadness made me reflect on how I want to live out the end of my own life, and I was startled by my own revelation. I don’t ever want to have to say goodbye to so many things. It is a blessing but also an intense sadness, to let go of things that have been tasked to hold so many memories. I acknowledge that I will be forced to say goodbye to so many people at the end of my life; why would I want to compound that sadness by having strong attachments to things? Maybe it’s unavoidable – maybe a life well lived does cause one to accumulate so many items that create happiness, and maybe I will be unable to avoid the suffering of that particular letting go. Maybe I’m just angry that the houses my grandfather loves, and his attachment to them, have slowly drained his energy and vitality, and I secretly fear that his need to stay independent has almost killed him. Maybe it’s just that I’m a different person and I value other things more. But I know in my heart that I would like to someday do it a different way for myself. It strengthens my own resolve to be very careful and deliberate in what I accumulate in my own life.

After all, what my great-uncle took with him this week – the love and respect of all the people he touched, and the dignity of a life well lived – is incalculably more valuable than all of the things that he left behind. Here’s hoping that we all continue to accumulate what matters most.

{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: Jessie

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, Jessie tells us how she embraced minimalism after a series of moves, and now feels empowered by her new, streamlined life. Visit her blog to read more.

Jessie writes:

I moved a lot in my early twenties, from college dorm room to shared apartment, to a rented house and then a townhouse, to an apartment with my boyfriend. I went to grad school, and continued to move, trying to find the best location compromise between my school in one city and my boyfriend’s – and then husband’s – work in another city. I left grad school and moved again to be closer to work.

Through all these relocations, I dutifully packed up, moved, and unpacked boxes of all of my stuff. At first it wasn’t much, but as I attempted to put together a professional wardrobe, I accepted more hand-me-downs from my mother – clothes I didn’t like, but could wear to work. I had a wedding, and got all of the dishware and linens on my registry. I adopted a frugal lifestyle once faced with the total of my $70,000 in student loans, and stopped shopping but held on to everything I owned.

And then we bought a house, and I felt that my life was fully realized. I looked at my stuff and saw how much of it was serving me no purpose at all. Then, with all my moves complete, I started ruthlessly packing up stuff.

I took carloads of boxes to a donation center – clothes I never liked, clothes that didn’t fit, dishes we didn’t need and gifts we had no use for. I made three big trips, and I thought I was done.

But once I started getting rid of things, I couldn’t stop. It seemed that I had turned into a minimalist, without even meaning to. For months now, every day or so I put another item in the donate pile. I look at every object I own and question what its role is in my life. I count items in categories – dresses, shoes, dishware – and then downsize. I dream about owning next to nothing.

My life is more streamlined now, and simpler. There’s no more clutter to put me on edge. I wear better outfits when I have fewer clothes to pick from, and there’s less to dust around, on the rare occasions that I do dust. I now give myself permission to splurge on expensive, well-made necessities, so I can buy it for life, rather than rotate through cheaper versions that wear out. I am immune to advertisements because the last thing I want is more stuff.

I know now that I can walk away from almost everything I own, without hesitation.

Since I now have more space to think, I started a blog, at http://www.mindfulriot.com. I write about minimalism, but also feminism, finance, fear, and personal development. Embracing minimalism turned out to be more counter-culture than I expected. The less I have, the more I feel I can do anything.

{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: John

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 a wonderful contribution from John, who shares his progress a year into his minimalist journey. Be sure to visit his blog to read more.

John writes:

John

John

Hello there! I am John from TheHillofBeans.com.

I began my minimalist journey last year, after the dissolution of my marriage. I was alone in a large, 2600 sq ft house filled with the accumulation of 25 years and four children (who are now adults living on their own). I was faced with the decisions of what to do now?

How to best use the second half of my life and the time I have remaining on this earth?

In my quest to answer that ubiquitous question, I discovered minimalism and simple living through the blogs, such as The Minimalists, Zen Habits, Be More with Less, and Miss Minimalist. I slowly began to realize making my life simpler and more authentic was truly what I wanted.

One thing was obvious. I had too much stuff.

Why does a single, middle-aged man need over two dozen cloth napkins?

Over the past year I have been paring down my inventory. It was difficult at first and I started with the biggest item first – my sports car.

I loved that little roadster. It was fun to drive, yet it was redundant and impractical. I have no regrets in selling it, and my life is simpler and more pleasant without it. I began to sell other items on Craigslist and it has been a worthwhile process of learning to let go. Lately I have been giving things away to friends and family. It is very freeing, and it allows others to enjoy items that are no longer useful for my lifestyle.

The more challenging part of the minimalism journey is reducing the mental clutter. Over the decades I have accumulated wrong, unnecessary thinking (mental baggage), such as “big is better” and “the more responsibilities I take on, people will like me more”, or worse “I have nothing of value to contribute to this conversation/relationship”.

Embracing minimalism has allowed me to re-evaluate my values and beliefs from a fresh perspective. By reducing the physical clutter in my life, I have reduced the distractions and allowed myself the freedom to focus on things that are important to me. Not only have I made physical space, I have made mental and emotional space. I try to be more observant of what goes on around me, more available to live in the moment, and more engaging with the people in my life.

As part of my journey to recovery, I started a blog earlier this year. I created The Hill of Beans as a forum for discussing what matters in this crazy world and to encourage my readers to simplify their lives, savor the short time they have here on earth, and think about that which is important and lasting. I invite you to read more at www.thehillofbeans.com.

It has been a great journey on the road of minimalism. I am far from complete. I still live in a big house, but have a plan to downsize and reduce my individual footprint. Most importantly, I truly enjoy the more “authentic” person I am becoming along the 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 Update: Bethany

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 Bethany, who was first featured as a Real Life Minimalist in June 2012. She shares with us the exciting changes of the last two years, and invites you to read more about her family’s new adventure on her blog.

Bethany writes:

In the summer of 2012, while cruising  our 29-foot sailboat, I shared my story with all of you. That was an incredible summer, as my family of 3 lived aboard for a total of 91 days. Housework took 5 minutes each morning, so we had time to go out and enjoy the day. We loved the boating community, and we loved the lifestyle.

Then it was time to return to reality.

This was the reality of houses, of people being walled in by possessions, of people doing all they can to avoid interacting with one another. We didn’t feel at home here; we didn’t belong. My daughter often cried that she wanted to go back to Moonraker. I was working a job that I didn’t like, so that I could pay for a house I wasn’t crazy about, in a town where I didn’t want to live. All we had was the promise of 91 days of bliss. 91 days out of 365.

After an incredibly challenging winter of soul searching and mental decluttering, we decided to leave it all behind. That house didn’t love us, and life was too short to spend in an unhappy situation. Over the summer of 2013, instead of launching Moonraker, we emptied out our 4-bedroom house. We kept whatever possessions would fit into our Volvo station wagon and a small U-haul trailer, and drove 1300 miles away, to Houston.

For a year, we lived very simply in an apartment. We loved city life! There was so much to do nearby, and so many free activities for our daughter, that owning a lot of possessions really wasn’t necessary. There was also a stronger sense of community that had been lacking in our previous town.

In July 2014, our next home found us. She is a 35 foot sailboat, built in 1966. Her very appropriate name is Breaking Tradition. It was love at first sight.

After three weeks of working frantically to make this boat into a home, our family was able to move onboard. Because we had so few possessions to begin with, emptying out the apartment took a couple days–rather than the months it took to empty the house. We now live in about 200 square feet of clean, uncluttered bliss.

This lifestyle has agreed very well with our daughter, who is 7 and has high-functioning autism. The rocking of the boat and tightness of her life jacket are soothing to her, and she loves having a slip close to the pool! She has plenty of opportunity to socialize and play with other kids, and she can also retreat to the familiarity of her v-berth bedroom. Owning a lot of possessions or even having a house is not necessary when you have a child with special needs.

Living in a small space, I have found minimalism to be a practical tool, rather than a set of rules to follow. In order to live comfortably and keep our boat uncluttered, we do without a number of things. We have no oven, we only have dishes for 3, and I only have 3 pans (a skillet, a saucepan, and a pressure cooker). My daughter has fewer toys than other kids, and our wardrobes consist of 5 outfits.

However, we do “break” a few rules that other minimalists follow. To start with, we have a television, hidden in one of our cupboards. We don’t have cable, but we do enjoy streaming Netflix and enjoying a family movie night. And to that end, we also store an electric corn popper. Yes, a single use appliance! It helps to feed our addiction. And we also have a Nintendo Wii, so that we can challenge each other to Mario Kart on rainy days.

All in all, we absolutely love our new lifestyle. As we sit in the cockpit, sipping iced tea and watching the sun set over the water, I can’t help but be grateful that we stopped following the rules and decided to follow our dreams instead.

{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: Sharity

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, Sharity tells us how her house was (literally) cracking apart beneath her—and how it inspired her to live a lighter, freer, more minimalist life.

Sharity writes:

I don’t recall the exact moment when I discovered minimalism, but I’ve been reading about it and working on it for myself for at least a couple of years now.

I grew up with a mentally ill mother, and it wasn’t until the popularity of shows like Hoarders that I realized my mom was a hoarder. Correction: HOARDER. (She passed away in 1995 and cleaning out her house was an incredible experience, but it still didn’t quite make me a minimalist.)

When I moved out to go to college (ok, escaped) I took everything with me to my dorm room. Everything. My dorm room was packed and chock full of stuff that I now realize I did. not. need. There was a girl a couple of doors down from me, and I remember looking into her room more than once and being amazed at how neat and orderly it was. She had almost nothing. Her bed, a desk. Eight magazine covers of her favorite models (she was tall and gorgeous and could have been one) above her bed and all her clothes in the closet. Again, in retrospect, I’m sure she did better in school than I did because she could most likely focus better than I ever could in all my mess.

My mother passed away about a year after I graduated college. It was a tough experience; she had cancer and I quit my job and moved back home to help care for her the last 5 1/2 months of her life. Most of my stuff wound up in my friends basement, there certainly wasn’t anywhere to put it at my moms. Once the estate settled, I decided I wanted a new life and moved to a different state. I got rid of a lot because I couldn’t afford to move it. I had a small apartment with very little in it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I really loved the simplicity of that little place.

Fast forward some years and a couple of moves to new states, and I thought I was ready to settle. My (now) husband and I bought a house. And we filled it up. Then, about two years in, we found out our house had a serious structural problem in the form of a slow subsidence sinkhole under it. Insurance denied our claim, and it took 9 years to work our way through the system and get the house situation resolved. Nine years of living in a house that is slowly cracking apart underneath you will change your perspective on a lot of things. (We couldn’t afford to move out of it during the process because if we stopped paying our mortgage then our lawsuit would have gone away.)

I am proud to say we are now almost at 1 year of crackhouse-free living. With our hard-fought for insurance settlement we bought a much smaller house that will be paid for in two years or less. I purged an incredible amount of stuff before we moved from 1700 square feet to 720 square feet and we still had a garage packed to the rafters when we first moved in. I consistently work at reducing our possessions, reading and learning about leading a simpler life and stress free living. My husband has made it clear he is unwilling to go any smaller, so I can forget having a tiny house, (darn it) but I am continually amazed at how lighter and freer life has become. I’m not done yet; we’ve cleared a lot of debt and a lot of crap. My goals are to be able to work less, travel more and enjoy my down time instead of spending it cleaning or yes even de-cluttering. Some projects are harder than others. I love books, but clearing out over 1000 books (and going digital) has proven to be easier than letting go of some favorite clothes that are no longer age or lifestyle appropriate.

I’m a work in progress looking forward to the second half of my life as an adventure, not a a struggle to maintain a bunch of things that don’t matter anyway.

{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: Natalie

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 pleased to feature Natalie. She tells us how minimalism helped her family reclaim not only their space, but also their time. Read more about her new “unbusy” life on her blog.

Natalie writes:

Natalie

Natalie

I’m Natalie, a 36 year old married mother of 3 kids from Melbourne Australia.

Being part of a family of five means that there is a lot of “stuff” in our home–toys, clothes, paperwork, food, junk, junk, junk.

My minimalism journey began by accident around mid-2013. I had heard the term minimalism and was curious to find out what it meant so here I was, in the middle of the night, researching minimalism while my family was fast asleep. What I discovered rang alarm bells and made me realise that this was how I wanted to live my life: this would be a new beginning for our family.

Our first home declutter session yielded 16 garbage-sized bags of items that we donated to charity, and countless items that were discarded or given to friends.

I found myself with not only less items in our home, but a tidier house, which meant less cleaning for me! This gave us more time to spend together as a family–summer 2014 and we spent many weekends down at the beach, at parks and playgrounds and also hiking with our kids. My husband and I had time to spend as a couple, and we spent less time and energy worrying about money, work and other everyday stresses. Some challenges were still there, but we had changed our attitudes and views and we had different priorities.

Fast forward 10 months and what I had learnt by creating a more minimalist lifestyle for my family was that part of what contributed to the “maxi” lifestyle we once had was that we were too busy–spending too much time, energy and money focused on those things that are not important. Our busyness had contributed to a house full of “stuff”, and a mind full of “stuff”. It was more than just the physical elements of a crazy lifestyle that made us reach a breaking point–it was taking a toll on us mentally.

In May 2014, I decided to create a blog “Unbusy Me” which focuses on helping others and sharing advice on how to create a less busy life, and also shares with readers ways that I spend my time now that I am less busy (for example, travelling and healthy cooking).

I live in a very family-oriented community, with lots of young families and couples just beginning their life journeys together and I do see many who struggle with keeping up a level of lifestyle that I can only imagine involves lots of sacrifice of time, health and wellbeing. I hope to be able to reach out to some of these people and show them a different way of living which has helped our family become more happy and healthy.

{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.}