Real Life Minimalists: Dana

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 delighted to feature Dana. She and her family are embracing minimalism so they can take a big, wonderful bus adventure! Visit her blog to see how they’re preparing for their journey.

Dana writes:

Dana

Dana

My husband and I had planned on one day living in a tiny house after our three boys were grown and out on their own. We thought we’d maybe take a year to travel when they were older, too. It was all the stuff that “someday” dreams are made of and we never gave any of it too much thought.

But then…Captain Fantastic happened.

(If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about a dad who takes homeschooling to an extreme…and then travels cross county with his 6 kids in a converted school bus.)

At the end of the movie, I turned to my husband and said, “We should do that.” He agreed.

3 weeks later, we won the bid for a retired school bus. Now here we are 3 months later and our tiny house on wheels conversion is well underway. As a homeschooling family, we consider this to be another opportunity to learn together. As a family who has always leaned towards very little clutter, we are now learning what it will really take to be minimalist enough to go from 3000 square feet to 230 square feet.

Our plan is to take the next year to finish the bus and then embark on an epic journey to see all 50 states (the bus will have to stay on the mainland when we visit Hawaii!). In the meantime, we’re examining every single object in our lives with one question in mind – Is this busworthy?

Sometimes the answer is obvious and easy. Sometimes it takes a lot of soul searching to get to an answer. Regardless, we’re learning and stretching and getting out of our comfort zone while figuring out what’s important to us and what’s holding us back. Choosing to live a life that’s low on stuff (but high on adventure!) has challenged us as a family, as a couple, and individually to really get brave and to stop saying “someday” and start saying “we can do this today”.

You can follow along with our march towards minimalism and the bus build on both Instagram (www.instagram.com/the.measure.of.us) and our blog (www.themeasureofus.com).

Thanks for reading!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or joining my email list.}

Real Life Minimalists: A. B.

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, A. B. tells us how children’s stuff can make a minimalist journey particularly challenging—but with time and persistence, it’s possible to pare down. I think many of us will relate to her story and be inspired by her progress!

A. B. writes:

I don’t know how long I’ve been on this minimalist journey. My first memory of it was in 2007 when I decided to take a break from work in hopes of simplifying my life, I was in my early 20’s and already tired. I cleaned out half of my overwhelmingly full closet that year. I still had a guest room full of junk and an entire garage full of stuff I couldn’t access.

In 2009, we began a family and said yes to A LOT of hand-me-downs. I was saving money and felt grateful. I had never had a baby before and everyone was quite happy to pass their stuff on, how was I to know what I’d need? We didn’t own a home and had moved a lot through the years so I brought it all with me. In hopes of saving future money, I held on to the stuff for our future home. We couldn’t park in the garage for years.

In 2012, we had a second baby and a new house to call our own. We received tons of hand-me-downs for the house and more for the new baby. I decided that all boxes were staying in the garage until we went through each and every one of them. It took months before we could park in the garage. A lot was donated, and a lot ended up in the attic.

In 2013, I was overwhelmed by all the kids’ hand-me-down clothes. It was organized but nothing went together, it was a hodgepodge of clothing and I had to re-assess every few months due to quickly growing kids. It exhausted me! The whole house was a playroom and stuff was everywhere. I was frustrated. I kept all the toys and clothes for the next baby to come.

But something changed when I got pregnant, I wanted NONE of the baby stuff that I had kept. Three kids at three different stages worth of stuff was not how I wanted to spend my time. I now knew what my baby needed. I got rid of all but a few baby toys knowing she wouldn’t want them once she realized what her sisters had…big kid toys. I donated 3/4 of the clothes and kept what only fit into one small box for each size.

That year I had done the opposite of nesting, I spent all free hours decluttering and purging as we expected our third baby. I attempted to sell a few items but hated to bring yard sale items back inside my house and I ended up donating. Now, when I have a yard sale and a person asks me how much I just say “make an offer,” and take whatever. Who cares, I don’t want it and they do. Surprisingly, my kids have seen me purge and declutter on a weekly basis for the past few years that they don’t seem to mind much when I sell or donate something. Oftentimes, I hand over the cash from selling to give to them to put in their banks. It’s quick money that they can happily save.

I’ve explored this journey along with my young kids and I am still figuring out just how far I want to take it. For me, this journey wasn’t a quick one. It has taken years of opening up the same boxes, closets and cupboards again and again and making new decisions on the same stuff. My husband and I still clean out the attic every year together and get rid of more stuff. It has gotten easier each time.

It’s the upkeep to this lifestyle that I wasn’t prepared for and I am still learning how to stay on top of it. It would’ve been easier and less time consuming for me to just attack it all head on from the very beginning. But in my defense, this wasn’t first nature for me, and we just had THAT much stuff to begin with. So much still comes in from school, church and family and I struggle finding the balance. For now, I’m very happy with where we’re at and so proud of how far we’ve come. I never had a minimalist goal, what motivates me is how good it feels to feel more peace in my home and the idea of living with less just speaks to my soul.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or joining my email list.}

Real Life Minimalists Update: Caroline Garnet McGraw

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 Real Life Minimalist Caroline Garnet McGraw. We heard from Caroline in 2011 and 2013, and now she’s here with an account of recovering from perfectionism and decluttering her fantasy self. Read more insights from Caroline on her blog, A Wish Come Clear.

Caroline writes:

Caroline

Caroline

We’re alike, you and me: both of us are haunted by our fantasy selves. We’ve spent years in the shadows of perfectionism, so the light of reality leaves us squinting. We want the literal and figurative lightness of decluttering, but we resist because we’re scared to see ourselves so clearly.

My fantasy self is the queen of unrealistic expectations. Perfect Caroline can do it all: read all of the books, cook all of the meals, and wear all of the uncomfortable shoes. (Why do I persist in the belief that I will wear heels more than twice a year?) It would be wonderful to be Perfect Caroline … except that she’d have no personality, no boundaries, and no ability to survive in the real world. Believe me, I should know. I’ve tried to bring her to life again and again, but she’s elusive, a lady vanishing.

I love decluttering because it’s a practical, tangible way to release Perfect Caroline and embrace Real Caroline instead. Letting go gives me something precious: a sense of my true self, which endures when my false self fades. With every unloved item I discard – be it a book I haven’t read or a recipe I haven’t prepared – a cherished fantasy image of myself disintegrates.

At that point, the controlling perfectionist in me freaks out. “You can’t get rid of that recipe! You must become the kind of person who cooks elaborate meals for fun!” She sounds harsh, but when I’m kind to her – “There, there, you’re okay as you are; it’s fine to keep making your favorite salads instead” – she drops her aggressive facade. Beneath the bluster, she’s a trembling child. She doesn’t mean to hurt me; she’s just afraid.

But here’s the thing about facing reality: once you get past the initial anxiety, it actually feels good. As I wrote in my essay In Which I Dare To … Dress Better, “There was sadness in letting [old clothes] go, but there was also a tremendous rush of energy. Facing up to the truth about my clothes made me feel great, whereas staying in denial depleted me. When I let them go, it made me feel like I could be trusted to lead my own life.”

The delight of decluttering lies in trusting ourselves, in the people we really are. Here are a few examples from my own decluttering process:

Letting go of the ill-fitting athletic shorts … and the fantasy that they’d turn me into a soccer wunderkind like Bridget from Ann Brashares’ The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. (In reality, I prefer yoga and hiking.)

Letting go of the boring-to-me book … and the fantasy that I’d study grammar rules like a “proper” writer. (In reality, I’ve gained an intuitive grasp of grammar through obsessive reading.)

Letting go of the bulky closet organizer … and the fantasy that my husband and I would travel back in time to the tiny DC apartment where we lived as newlyweds. (In reality, we live in a historic Alabama home with nice furniture.)

Letting go of most of my old journal pages … and the fantasy that I’d want to reread them. (In reality, I prefer to use my journals as an emotional dumping ground and then move on.)

We let objects pile up because we’re scared of who we’d be without them. Who are we without all of this stuff? It’s time to find out. Consider this a spoiler alert: our real selves are more interesting, fun, and vital than our false selves can ever be. Real trumps Perfect every time.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or joining my email list.}

Real Life Minimalists: Jenn

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 Jenn, whose minimalist lifestyle helps her maximize time with her little one. Visit her blog to read more of her thoughts and experiences.

Jenn writes:

Jenn and Beans

Jenn and Beans

I’m Jenn, minimalist and mindfulness blogger at Honey Rule.

I’m a single mom to Beans (he’s about one and a half years old). Just about every day I am thankful I’m a minimalist; it allows me to spend just a few minutes every day cleaning up and keeping our lives organized so I can maximize my quality time spent with my son and other loved ones.

During my 6 moves in about 5 years, it was easy for me to pare down on my belongings and push my experience in being a minimalist. At first, I decluttered out of sheer necessity: I was trying to keep my move from California to Philadelphia as inexpensive as possible. After that, I found joy in having less and less personal belongings.

I used to be an avid consumer: buying a ton of discounted fast fashion items and getting at least 2 packages on my doorstep every day. Because I have less stuff now, I’m less tempted to shop. I even recently cancelled my Amazon Prime account.

I also am actively trying to buy items at thrift stores and with environmentally-conscious brands for myself and my son in order to reduce our carbon footprint.

Being a minimalist directly contributes to my happiness. I have relatively low levels of stress, especially for being a parent. I’m able to focus on what matters most: great experiences with great 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 joining my email list.}

Real Life Minimalists Update: Heather in Texas

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.

I always love receiving an update from Heather in Texas! We heard from her in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2016—and now she shares with us her recent experience with Hurricane Harvey. I think her perspective is very inspiring, and testament to how minimalism can help us through difficult times.

Heather writes:

After the hurricane

After the hurricane

Hurricane Harvey. Water damage and mold. One doesn’t even know where to start. Thankfully, handed a check but what do you buy first? What are your priorities?

I couldn’t pull from my own items to give but being a minimalist has given me the financial and physical freedom to help. I collected what I could, in the form of new clothing, shoes, pet food/items, towels, canned food, lanterns, bedding, hygiene products, gift cards, etc. I have VERY generous friends. We were able to load up 2 pickup trucks and a trailer worth of items and get them to Rockport and the surrounding areas.

Harvey stopped me in my tracks and made me think how blessed I truly am. We did lose part of our roof and because of the water seeping inside, we had internal damage and eventually, mold. I was never more grateful to be a minimalist because minus my furniture and a few this and that’s, we packed up our belongings and sought shelter elsewhere. This is no small feat, considering I have 3 larger dogs, 2 cats and 2 foster kittens at the time. Add that to having to meet the needs of my husband, son and myself, it was quite interesting.

I remember being in the hotel room, I started purging even more items. A tragic event like this puts things into sharp perspective. We have been able to move back into our house, some of our furniture had to be thrown out but I am enjoying the empty space and was grateful it was not worse. It took us all of an hour and half to move back in and unpack.

This event has been a catalyst for us. We want to live MORE. We are planning 2 trips already to seek adventure and are planning on selling our larger home for smaller pastures. I continue to purge here and there but mostly, enjoy what I have and even more, the laughter, love and happiness within the walls of this house. Never thought it would take a hurricane to learn so many lessons in 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 joining my email list.}

Real Life Minimalists: Kelly

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 delightful story from Kelly. After purging their excess possessions, she and her husband found themselves open to a wonderful new possibility: parenthood!

Kelly writes:

Kelly

Kelly

My minimalist adventure may have begun the day I first saw a picture of the Tumbleweed tiny homes. Those homes became like an adorable 3D puzzle to me. What do you really need and how can you make it all fit together? Eventually, I went on an organization ideas Pinterest bender. Then, I found Miss Minimalist and Marie Kondo. Do I use it, do I love it, is it beautiful, does it spark joy? With all these pieces of the puzzle finally coming together I set about to bringing my life in order.

One day a career opportunity knocked at our door that would have required us to pack up and move (potentially several times). Super excited I set about thinning things out. Purge purge purge. And then the opportunity fell through. It was a crushing disappointment one that left us in a huge vacuum. What now? Who are we? Where are we going? The slate was confoundingly blank and the lack of direction was disorienting. So I looked around at the treasures that hadn’t been purged. Bright colored treasures from our trips around the world full of cheer and whimsy. I looked at a bedroom that was now completely empty. What were we going to fill our life with? Was it finally time…? Was it finally our turn…? Could we really, maybe possibly, consider having a BABY??!!!?!?!!!!

And so we embarked on our next adventure…parenthood!

If we hadn’t cleaned out the things we didn’t need and that weren’t really even us anymore we might not have realized that our life could open up to an entirely different and truly much desired possibility.

The first website I peaked at while secretly considering pitching the baby idea to my husband was a minimalists guide to baby stuff. With all my new found open space I wasn’t super keen to fill it with junk and suffocate us. When the time came I carefully went about curating a baby registry. I would look at an item, think about it for a while, measure it, visualize where in my house I could keep it before adding it to my list. Now at the parenthood 7th month mark I can happily report that all the baby related items have a purpose, a place and are much loved. Now if only I can get over the sentimentality of wanting to save it all for eternity….

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or joining my email list.}

Real Life Minimalists: M. C. Starbuck

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 M. C. Starbuck, a former packrat whose decluttering transformed her life. Read more about her experience on her blog.

M. C. Starbuck writes:

M. C. Starbuck

M. C. Starbuck

As a packrat for so long, I thought getting rid of stuff would only lead to regret and frustration.

I’m so glad to finally see that I was wrong!

I began getting rid of clutter at the end of 2014, so I’m finally starting to see some of the long-term benefits.

Of course I saw an impact on my day-to-day life immediately. I felt lighter and empowered to make other positive life-changes.

As I got rid of possessions, I learned more about myself and my fears. I had to overcome many doubts. I had read about other people experiencing this, but it’s so different living through it yourself.

My favorite thing about having gotten rid of clutter is that once I decided I was open to the possibility of getting married, I ended up meeting an amazing guy who is very tidy and organized.

He’s in the military, so I’m thankful that the messiness of my past won’t affect our future in a negative way. Instead we can both encourage each other in owning less.

It’s such an important aspect of our lives that I’m really not sure how it would’ve worked out for us if I hadn’t already begun my journey of becoming clutter-free. I would’ve been so embarrassed and taken years to get to a point that he could tolerate the amount of my possessions. But I’m so grateful we’ve been able to decide to get married with no major issues like that holding us back.

I used to have quite a different view of clutter. I saw it as a necessity for an enjoyable life. I love colors and creativity, and my hobbies and collections can create a messy life. Plus, I can always find an excuse for not cleaning since I’d rather focus on people and relationships than the state of my home or car. Now I see how all of that can go hand in hand.

But the only reason I had decided to start giving stuff away is because I wanted a tiny house, and now I’m not even going to live in one! But I get to reap the benefits for the rest of my life.

I started reading so much about tiny houses in my pursuit of building one, I even attended three tiny house workshops. And the message I kept hearing along with that was how freeing it is to own less stuff. The tiny house community always gave simple, practical advice along with their stories. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.

As a free spirit who loves having fun at anything I do, I didn’t expect to stick with it for very long. I figured the excitement would wear off, and I’d get bored with it. But instead I’ve found ways to make decluttering fun for me.

I’ve been sharing my story from the beginning at mcstarbuck.com, where you can download (for free!) the beginning of my upcoming book, Packrat to Clutterfree.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or joining my email list.}

Real Life Minimalists: Pamela

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 Pamela, who tells us about her step by step journey to a more minimalist lifestyle. She writes about frugality on her blog.

Pamela writes:

Pamela

Pamela

My journey to minimalism came about through a series of steps. Whenever I moved, I became more of a minimalist.

It all started with my first place after university. A 400 square foot apartment filled with heavy wooden, hand me down furniture. There were only two closets but they were stuffed full of things. Not to mention a ton of kitchen supplies and gadgets.

From there I moved into a furnished townhouse that I shared with a roommate. Phew I could get rid of all that heavy wooden furniture and the pesky kitchen paraphernalia. Unfortunately I didn’t get rid of the boxes and bags of stuff so I had to lug them up a huge flight of stairs to my new place.

From there I went housesitting. And the thing I noticed most about that move was all of those boxes and bags were being hauled back down all those stairs…and I hadn’t even used any of the stuff inside of them in the four years I had lived there!

So after four trips back and forth with my small car stuffed to the gills just to move it all, I started decluttering in earnest. I was so successful in my task that the next housesitting gig I went to, I only had to make one trip with my small car.

By the time the next housesitting job came along, I had even managed to get rid of the small car (Yippee!) So for that move, I packed a couple suitcases and called a cab! (Totally inspired by Miss Minimalist’s London move.)

What I have learned most from my years of slowly increasing minimalism is that: frugality and minimalism go hand in hand. It is incredibly easy to save money when you don’t need or want a lot of stuff. And with increased frugality comes increased freedom. The freedom to follow your dreams. The freedom to stay home and raise your child. The freedom to travel the world.

Whatever your dreams, they are much easier to achieve with frugality and minimalism is a HUGE part of that.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or joining my email list.}

Real Life Minimalists: Jennifer from Maryland

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, Jennifer from Maryland tells us how she’s created more space, time, and peace in her life. Check out her blog to learn more.

Jennifer writes:

Jennifer

Jennifer

My journey with minimalism began a few years ago. I didn’t intend to become a minimalist. I was a wife, a mom, and a teacher who was tired of being overwhelmed and exhausted all the time.

I had a very full life. But I was going through the motions, feeling like a hamster on a wheel, and barely keeping up with my family, work, and relationships. I never seemed to have enough time to get it all done, and when I did have time to relax, I struggled to be present and enjoy the moment. On the outside, I had it all. But on the inside, I was discontent and restless.

I believed that if I could just organize my home – once and for all! – I would feel happier. In my quest for organizational strategies, tips, and tools, I read every book about organization and decluttering I could find. And then I read The Joy of Less and learned about the concept of minimalism.

I was intrigued, and began reading everything I could about minimalism. I read about people who own less than 100 items, live in small houses, and travel all over the world. And while I didn’t really want to do any of those things (ok, maybe travel the world!), it was more than that. They all expressed a deep level of contentment and a liberating sense of freedom.

Around the same time, an illness forced me to evaluate my priorities. The effects of stress, too much stuff, and a packed schedule were taking a toll on my health. I knew I had to make some changes.

I started to create a different kind of life. A life where I decided how to spend my time. A life in which I was present for the people I love, with physical and mental space to think and create.

Instead of organizing my stuff, I got rid of much of it. I simplified my schedule, created a morning routine, designed a capsule wardrobe to reduce the amount of clothes in my closet, and made healthier food choices.

I am learning to love the idea of less (less stuff, less busy-ness, fewer obligations) in exchange for more. More peace, more time, more space, more freedom.

I feel like a new person – the person I was meant to be. I’m still working on it, but I’m shaping my life into a version of minimalism that’s just right for me.

I write about my minimalist journey on my blog, A Life Designed. If you are working towards a simple life too, please visit me there. I’d love to hear about what you’re doing and share ideas!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or joining my email list.}

Real Life Minimalists: Hannah

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, we have a wonderful contribution from Hannah, who writes about why she adopted a minimalist lifestyle and the happiness it’s brought her.

Hannah writes:

Hannah

Hannah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or joining my email list.}