Real Life Minimalists: Amity

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 Amity, who writes about the benefits of being a “Mini Me.” Check out her blog to read more of her story!

Amity writes:

Amity

Amity

Once, long ago, I had an astounding number of knickknacks and t-shirts. That was the tip of the iceberg. I had two drawers (one that was meant to hold hanging folders) filled to the brim with stationary. One wide shelf of my pantry was entirely devoted to tea. I was not a hoarder; rather, a second cousin: a collector.

When I was in my early 30’s I had an epiphany. I don’t need this much stuff! Beginning in 2009 or 2010 I purged my home twice a year. Everything got an inspection and an interrogation to see if it could stay.

This is my fifth year of seeking to be a minimized me. The rewards of adopting a ‘less is more’ attitude are of such magnitude I don’t know if I can convey to you my personal pleasure. But, I am going to try.

I have more money, time, and freedom than ever before. Sound to good to be true? Hang with me. I am not making this up. This is why I aspire to always be Mini Me.

Money

By not buying anything, I am saving at an unprecedented rate. I regularly go on spending fasts for fun and for a bit of a personal challenge. I have more money left over after paying bills. Now I get mad if I don’t save at least several hundred a month. When I started, I thought I was ready to retire if I spared 300 in a month from being squandered.

Time

This is more important to me than money. I have time to relax, explore, and create. My house now is so decluttered it takes about an hour to clean. My social calendar has been minimized and I spend several nights of the week without any pressing engagements, except to pet my cats and stroll with my hubby through our older neighborhood (with very mature, beautiful landscaping and quiet streets).

Freedom

Perhaps most important of all is personal freedom. By being a Minimalist, I had low enough expenses that I could try working part time. I decided I would explore my creativity. I painted, started a blog, and wrote a book. Minimize: Kill your debt. Live your dream. was launched in December of 2013. Had I had an out-of-control shopping habit, or crippling debt, I would have never known what I was capable of when left to my own devices.

Even if you have just cleared your first surface, you will experience a benefit. That space can be admired in a new way. One space leads to other spaces being reclaimed, and then the benefits begin to multiply.

Don’t take my word for it; see for yourself. Minimize!

{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: Agilborder

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 introduce you to Agilborder. She decluttered a tremendous amount of stuff in a very short time, trading a house full of possessions for the freedom of early retirement. Wonderful!

Agilborder writes:

A year ago my husband and I found our dream retirement location, but we really had not considered retiring. House prices in that area were low and “live lightly on the land” was the motto of the place we chose. We decided that if we super-downsized, became more cognizant about what we really needed, sold our stuff and big houses, we could afford to retire now.

I began researching and The Joy of Less became my model for our future. We put our 8000 sq ft (yes it is embarrassing) on the market and although our agent told us it might take 6 to 8 months to sell the whopper house, it sold to the first people who looked at it for the price we wanted. The catch…30 day closing. This is where Miss Minimalist gets my sincere thanks. By using The Joy of Less as my road map, I navigated the mountain of stuff we had accumulated. For years, I had been the keeper of all my and our extended family memorabilia because I had the big house with lots of storage. We had moved 3 times, always to larger homes and just carried all the stuff with with us. DONT EVER DO THIS! Go through every box before a move and be honest about what you really want and need!

I called up my siblings and told them that I wasn’t keeping any furniture, limited memorabilia and just what we need in retirement. They were shocked (one even suggested I might have a brain tumor that was causing this shocking change) came and tagged what they wanted, got storage units (mistake in my book, but got it out of my realm) and I had movers pack and move their stuff. Ahhh! First layer of lightening done.

Next, I had to deal with everything else. With my college aged kids who are spread around the US, I used FaceTime. It was great. My kids started out saying, just keep my stuff, but with FaceTime I was able to open a box, ask them if they really wanted to keep “squiggly bear”. When faced with the picture and a yes or no or why? prompt from me, we whittled it down to a couple of memorabilia boxes each and a mountain of clothes, electronics, and stuff for goodwill. Second layer of lightening, done.

I found it much easier to make my own decisions about my stuff after watching how ruthless my kids became. But I still had a house full of antiques and contemporary furniture that I had filled the corners of my McMansion with; most had come from my family or our weekend antiquing habit. We weren’t allowed to have a garage sale or estate sale in my snooty McMansion neighborhood (what a crock) and there was just too much and too little time to Craigslist so I called in an antique auction house and a contemporary furniture auctioneer. This was great!!!! They came in, packed and moved everything offsite to auction. And I made a lot of money on all my “stuff”. I have to tell you how wonderful my house started to look as all these layers were removed. Any remorse? Absolutely none! Layers 3&4 done!

Finally I found a great company that would take everything else on the day before closing. They are called GoneForGood. Again, if they could sell it, they give you some money for it , but mostly they took stuff like mattresses, washer/dryer (mine weren’t snooty enough for my buyer ha ha) and stuff that I just ran out of time getting rid of. I personally hauled 15 pickup truckloads of stuff to Goodwill. Hoarder? Didn’t think so… I just bought a house with giant storage in each room and a huge basement storage where we had neatly boxed and labelled 30 years of “stuff”. Never again!!!!

We closed last Friday and got the big check. It feels wonderful! We moved clothes, books, some kitchen items to our retirement home and vowed to live with the minimal amount of furniture the previous owner left until we decide what we really want and need. There is no basement or attic and little room for storage thankfully. We immediately moved to our Ski house (I know- it is 3000sqft) and we are starting the process there–thankfully, no basement or memorabilia. It goes on the market once my husband retires which will be soon with the new 1:15 hour commute.

I just wanted to let everyone know what a help the book and Miss Minimalist blog was to inspire me. Over-stuffing comes to most everyone and the process (particularly my 30-day timeline) seemed daunting, but I got it done and I feel wonderful.

I will never, ever let myself get in this position again, and I know that we just got caught up in the “we can afford more so we should have and keep more” mentality. I know there will be some judgment here about someone who owns 3 houses but over-stuffing happens to everyone, and because of all your great stories, examples, and The Joy of Less book, we will sell the second house (furnished down to the dishes) as well and will be able to retire 5 years earlier than we dreamed. We are trading stuff for lifestyle, and it feels great living more lightly. We have a long way to go, but the big albatross is gone and the plan for albatross2 is in place. The weekly feed from Miss Minimalist has been so inspiring and I really do appreciate this community. I will continue to look for ways to reduce and I have to admit I really don’t miss a thing!

{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: Magalie Linda

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 meet Magalie Linda, an aspiring “semi-minimalist.” She’s documenting her decluttering process on her Tumblr, so be sure to check it out.

Magalie Linda writes:

Magalie Linda

Magalie Linda

I am not a minimalist. I don’t want to be one. At least not the one that has 2 pairs of pants or 2 shirts and lives out of a suitcase. But I am turning into a “semi minimalist”. You see, I do like to dress up. I like to accessorize. I like some of my stuff. But it is not my life. I am not my stuff.

It took me a while to realize this. When I started yoga, boxing and meditation to get more focussed, and of course, for physical purposes, it struck me how efficient the techniques of yoga and boxing are. You don’t use what you don’t need in a pose or a movement. It started to reflect back into my behavior.

One day not too long ago I came home. I was tired. I sat down on my sofa and I looked around my very very tiny house (it’s 147 square feet). I love my very very tiny house, but it was full of crap. My grandmother had died a few years ago, her belongings were mixed with some old stuff I had managed to hold on to and new things I had bought in moments of shopping fevers. I sat on my sofa feeling so empty in a house full of so many objects. Objects that should make me feel better, but they didn’t. Not anymore.

So, I started to think about how my grandmother was dead and that I had thought about her in the train going home. Not even in the house where her belongings were. When I was in the train I felt happy with my memory of her. It dawned on me that these items of hers were not a representation of me and my grandmother’s relationship. It was merely an item that I had placed a lot of value upon, but now it had made me feel tired. It was time to let go of this way of being.

But it was hard! It was my grandmother’s stuff. My stuff. But also it made me so tired with myself that I had these emotional waves towards an object. I was done with being tied down and tired. I was done with being mastered by things that I now know I have control over. It is just an object. I looked around the web to find some contenders who shared their experiences with minimalism and thus letting go of personal items.

Lo and behold there was a plethora of advice, experiences and even people who wrote books on the subject. I was not alone! I took this new information and I started to digest it.

That was the start of a whole chain of events and thoughts that have now been turned me into a semi-minimalist. I carefully am reviewing every item. Drawer per drawer, cabinet per cabinet, box per box. I don’t need to throw everything out, but definitely 80% is going out. It’s a fascinating process which I am documenting in my Tumblr. You would be surprised at how I get rid of some things in a strange way.

I find myself in a new place, and yet again it is not new. It is more a place for me where I feel more natural. It had always had to be like this. You could say, I am finally me. I have become generous. I find that some reaction that I would make in some situation, are now unnecessary. I even have more silly fun, because now there is room for it. In my head, my soul and in the material realm.

Thank you, minimalism bloggers and contributors for sharing. You saved a person. You have made this girl very happy.

{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: Maryn

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, Maryn tells us how she traded the dream of a glamorous life for a simple one. Please visit her blog to learn more about her journey.

Maryn writes:

Maryn

Maryn

Growing up in Los Angeles, I thought I needed a glamorous occupation to be happy. I had this vision of me in a chic black suit making moves in designer shoes. People told me I could do anything. Queue the music. People told me I could change the world. Queue the lights. After graduating from a good college, I sashayed my way into the real world. There was no music. There were no lights. Really, nobody cared. I found a job and starting earning a paycheck. Nearly a decade later, I’m still earning that paycheck and staring down a long road of doing something I don’t like so I can buy things I don’t need. I began to wonder, “Is this all there is?”

Last October my boyfriend and I decided to leave the city. We were tired of expensive living and the rat race. As we prepared for our move, I was floored by how much stuff we had. Those hard-earned paychecks were staring me in the face. There were endless boxes of new appliances, tchotchkes, and too many shoes. At that moment, I knew I had to break the cycle of consumer excess and paycheck-dependency. After years of chasing an empty dream, I needed to rewrite the script.

This move was our second chance. We carried our bags into our new space and instead of going into nesting mode I thought, “Let’s embrace the emptiness for a while. Let’s decide what we really need and figure out how we want to live here.” We went for weeks without anything but sleeping bags and a beach mat to eat our meals on. It felt a little strange at first, but I got used to it and even started to enjoy it. We embraced the idea of “floor living” with a futon bed, beanbag floor lounger and a couple of floor pillows. My boyfriend even made a low, Japanese style dining table for us. It was liberating. It made me feel grounded.

Since we moved, my fancy dresses and high heels have been gathering dust in the closet. My life now couldn’t be further from the dreams I once had. We walk to the grocery store and cook meals at home. We buy fresh foods and get only what we need for the week. We go for walks on the weekends. Somewhere along this journey I gave up my ambition for a fabulous life and traded it for a simple one. If you told me 8 years ago I would be buying groceries from a co-op and riding a bike to happy hour I would have said, “You’re crazy.” But here I am writing cross-legged on the floor and I’ve never been happier.

As a “minimalist in progress,” I would love to connect with those on a similar path. Visit me at www.thewellspringblog.com where I record the ups and downs of this new 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: SimpleSophy

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 SimpleSophy. She tells us about her frustration with having too much stuff, and what finally inspired her to pursue a pared-down life. Read more about her experiences on her blog.

SimpleSophy writes:

SimpleSophy

“I have too much stuff!”

It’s a decadent ‘First World’ moan, but it’s no less real and burdensome for that. I cannot tell you how oppressed I became by all my stuff, and how much I began to long to be rid of it.

I wasn’t always hankering after a clutter-free life. Indeed, as a child I was an avid collector of anything and everything. I couldn’t go for a walk in the countryside without returning with my pockets bulging with pretty stones, pine cones, shells and even animal skulls and antlers. I set up a mini museum in my bedroom, with natural artefacts on one shelf and ethnographic objects (a motley collection of broken bits of china and souvenirs) on another. Each was labelled lovingly and displayed to best advantage in a pleasingly artistic arrangement, while all around the museum my clothes, toys and books were scattered in enormous, unsightly heaps on the floor. My mother despaired.

As a teenager I began to collect books, and as a student my flat was stuffed with bookcases, all overfilled. Many of the books I hadn’t read, but still I liked to have them. They somehow seemed to hold a promise of a better life – an educated life with answers.

Books were succeeded by clothes, and although they never made me the better loved and admired person they told me I would be, I continued to waste money on them, year after year. I never seemed to have any ready cash and was unable to save anything for the future, yet my wardrobe was stuffed till the clothes were falling out on the floor.

All this while, though, I read books about people who lived the simple life. Up there amongst my favourites were the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series. I loved to read about the Ingalls family crossing the prairies and living out of their wagon, cooking over a camp fire and sleeping out under the stars with just their dog and Pa’s gun for protection against the Indians and the wolves. I loved to read about their log cabin in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, where the family lived off the land and made the big trip to town only once a year. I also loved to read about the Scottish Highlanders who lived in their tiny, turf-roofed black houses, described by outsiders as damp hovels but none the less housing some of the fittest and healthiest inhabitants of the British Isles. And later still I discovered the magnificent Granite Island by Dorothy Carrington and loved the descriptions of the austere, barbaric yet dignified life of the Corsican bandits, villagers and shepherds. And when I say loved, I mean loved. There was no topic I liked to read about more than people roughing the simple life.

It was as though I was living a life of magnificent simplicity in my imagination, while slowly creating a suffocating prison of stuff around me in reality. The more my imagination fed on the freedom of the boundless prairies of 19th century Kansas and Dakota, the more I imprisoned myself with my real 21st century life of stuff. Contradictory, or what?

A point came where I could take no more. I’d read Wilder, I’d read Thoreau, and my life no more resembled theirs than a battery chicken’s resembles that of a hawk. Where was my life going? I longed to be free and knew only my self-inflicted slavery. I also didn’t know where to start.

It was at that point that I discovered this marvellous new movement called minimalism. I think I first read about it in an article in the Saturday Times magazine which interviewed four or five people who had given up their things to live lives of awe-inspiring stufflessness. By modern consumerist  standards these people should have been miserable and deprived, but they were happy and productive! They were living in the modern world, leading modern lives, and yet they felt free. I tore the article out of the magazine and looked up all the blogs and websites that were mentioned. I discovered Miss Minimalist and The Minimalists and my own minimalist journey was begun.

I can’t say it has been easy. There have been many pitfalls, and it’s taken me nearly two years to get to where I am now (which is to say, somewhere further down the road). At first I decluttered, but then bought more stuff. Then I decluttered and didn’t buy so much stuff. Then I moved house from a 1 bed flat into a shared flat, and had the incentive to get my belongings down to one car load to make the move easier. I didn’t manage it. What I thought was one car load turned out to be three car loads. At the end of the move, in my exhaustion at having packed, cleaned, transported and unpacked all that stuff, I banged my head on the hard wooden edge of the bed while vacuuming and gave myself a bad concussion. I was in bed for two weeks, forbidden by the doctor to read or watch TV for more than ten minutes at a time. I still suffer from frequent concussion-related headaches and migraines. Dealing with my stuff literally damaged my brain!

Now I would say I am more motivated than ever to live without much stuff and to pursue a simple and minimalist way of life. I recently started blogging about my journey towards a simple life and I hope you’ll come over and visit me at www.simplesophy.wordpress.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: Pia

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, Pia tells us how some difficult situations inspired her minimalist journey—and how much happier, and more meaningful, her life has become. Be sure to visit her blog to read more!

Pia writes:

Pia

Pia

I wasn’t always very mindful of the way I lived my life. Every paycheque went to shopping for the latest trends or eating out too much. I’d spend countless hours surfing the internet, Facebook and watching YouTube videos. I didn’t spend as much time with my family as I should have. I was too focused on myself. I ate crappy food and I barely exercised. So like most people, I always wondered, what else was out there other than just chasing every temporary high? I think I lived everyday blindly, unaware of what I was really doing to myself.

It all started with a breakup in April 2012 (my 28th year) with someone I was living with for 3 years. Everything was pretty easy peasy up until that point. I had everything I wanted and needed (or thought I wanted and needed) and I thought I was happy.

The most significant change for me was towards the end of 2013. It was announced that the very secure and amazing workplace I was at was going to be shut down. We were like a family. It was a place of many people’s dream jobs. Heartbreak was all around, and it was a true test of my emotional strength as I helped everyone get through it all (I work in Human Resources slash part-time therapist haha), while also trying to take care of myself. My body went through a lot of physical pain as well as my spirit.

But I learned that bad things can be a blessing in disguise.

I had a month off before I started my new job, so I had a lot of time to reflect on things like the meaning of life, what I was here for and what really mattered. That kind of happens when you don’t have much to do. I started meeting and hanging out with people who lived life on their own terms. Lived it with meaning. Worked for themselves or were spiritually aware. A friend recommended I read the Celestine Prophecy and it changed my whole perspective on everything.

I discovered a bunch of Minimalist Blogs as well, which were in line with my new values. I realized that I had everything I wanted materially but I still wasn’t happy. I had a lot of clutter that was filling my time and space, that I never really touched or used. So I started slowly purging my belongings that had no use. Beginning with my gigantic wardrobe, then to my book collection, then to my kitchen, and so forth. I kept only the things I really needed or mattered to me the most and downsized into a studio apartment and have been blissful ever since.

I finally felt so liberated from something that was holding me back and I honestly feel like I’m now living at a level I never thought was possible. Like the material world doesn’t matter at all anymore. Forget consumerism. Who cares. On my deathbed what is going to matter? I don’t care about the superficial stuff anymore. It’s irrelevant.

The things that matter the most to me are the people in my life, giving back to others, truly loving and accepting myself, my health and my freedom. All the preoccupation of the material world and keeping up with the Joneses is pretty exhausting and isn’t going to matter in the long run. I’d rather work and find meaning in it and look at it as a way of contributing something to the world.

Funny enough, I just recently lost my most recent job, but it hardly phased me. I am so blissed out and happy with the way I am living my life. New opportunities have opened up, things that I was always scared to do like teaching and leading classes at local schools and helping students with their careers.

Needless to say, ever since I started living minimally and more meaningfully, the things and people that have entered my life have been exactly what I’ve been looking for my entire life. I am so much 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 subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: Irene

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 Irene. She shares the inspiration behind her minimalism, and the techniques she uses to achieve (and maintain) her simple lifestyle.

Irene writes:

Hi, I’m Irene from California and this is my minimalist story:

I was 17 years old when I discovered Elaine St. James’ book, The Simple Life, on display at Barnes and Noble. Elaine’s minimalist philosophy resonated with me and I reread her book several times.

My parents set great examples and taught me to value relationships and life experiences more than material things. We traveled often and we lived in 10 different homes before my 20th birthday. Through those journeys I began to consider which of my belongings were actually meaningful to me and worthy of shuffling from place to place. I wanted to be ready for the next adventure without unnecessary clutter weighing me down.

I flew off to college over 2,000 miles from home, bringing only a few boxes of possessions. There I realized that while I missed my family, friends, and the widespread availability of authentic Mexican restaurants, I didn’t miss any of the material things that I had left back home.

After graduating from college, I returned home and began to sell and donate many of my belongings that weren’t getting much use. I moved to a condo in a nearby city and filled it only with things that I used regularly. Less than a year later, I got married and my husband moved in with me. Fortunately, he shares my quest for simple living.

A few years after our wedding, we purchased our first home, which by most standards appears a bit empty. After five years in this house, we switched internet service providers; when the representative arrived to install our new system, he glanced around our spartan living room and asked if we had just moved in. I understood his confusion, since unlike most of our neighbors, we do not own a television and our decorations are sparse. By keeping only the pieces of furniture and decorator items that we use or truly enjoy, we save time cleaning and maintaining our home

After reading Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine, I went a year without spending any money on clothes, shoes, jewelry, or handbags. I made one exception for an alteration and fabric fee to tailor and add straps to a strapless bridesmaid dress.

Now that my year without buying clothes had ended, I generally practice a one-in-one-out strategy by making purchases only to replace a similar product. For example, if I buy a new pair of jeans, I will consign or donate my old pair. I’ve found Ebay and Twice to be excellent resources for selling used clothing.

My minimalist wardrobe saves me valuable time getting ready in the morning, and makes packing for vacations stress-free. My clothes are almost all in the same color scheme (solid black, denim, and khaki skirts, pants, and jackets, with colorful solid or print shirts) so everything coordinates. I also try to avoid buying clothes that require ironing, hand washing, or dry-cleaning.

During my year of reduced spending, I discovered that many of our needs, especially our clothing needs, are artificially created by marketers hawking their wares. I also learned that most of the things we rarely use can be easily borrowed instead of owned. Aside from my two Bibles and a few bible study books that I read frequently, I usually choose not to own items that I can borrow for free, such as books and DVDs. Our library even loans e-books, which I read on my cell phone during lunch breaks, and while riding airplanes or waiting in waiting rooms.

We are blessed that our parents have been very supportive of our simple lifestyle. For holidays, we usually share experiences, such as dinners at restaurants, a game of bocce ball, or a night at a magic show, instead of traditional gifts. Rather than giving each other birthday, Christmas, anniversary, and Valentine’s Day presents, my husband and I put a chunk of each paycheck into a vacation fund and take turns choosing our destinations. Together, we have visited Alaska, Canada, the Caribbean, Maui, Italy, France, Great Britain, and Portugal, and are planning many more vacations together in the future. We do not buy souvenirs on vacations, but we preserve the memories by discussing them and saving digital photos on our hard drives and flash drives.

I love that the minimalist lifestyle is so diverse, with varying goals, ages, and family sizes. My husband and I do not have children; other minimalists, such as Miss Minimalist, The Minimalist Mom and Becoming Minimalist practice minimalism with their children. The common thread connecting all minimalists is simply a mission to live within or below our means and eliminate the things we do not use or enjoy.

It has been inspiring to read the tips here and implement them at home. Thank you, Miss Minimalist, for providing this fantastic resource!

Irene's living room

Irene’s living room

{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: Mads

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, Mads from Denmark shares with us his commitment to minimalism. He tells us how he and his family (including two small children) continually strive to live with less.

Mads writes:

Mads

I’m Mads from Denmark. I have been a minimalist for several years.

Must confess that I can’t remember how it all started. But as soon as I got started on minimalism I didn’t look back. Over the years I have consistently cut down on the number of things I have, although I’m still far from having only 100 things (it’s a difficult goal to reach when you have a family that includes two small children).

Because I need very little, I don’t need to make as much money as most people do. I can therefore get by with relatively few hours of consulting work, so I have time to focus on the things that matter: My family, my interests and my project Cykelvalg (a Danish bicycle comparison site).

Introducing minimalism in our family wasn’t difficult at all. Our children are small and my wife totally agreed with it from the beginning (but I can imagine how difficult it would be to introduce minimalism if your partner doesn’t agree with it).

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have conflicts about what we should keep and what we should get rid of. My wife loves to make food so she has a lot of kitchen stuff and our two small children are good at bringing home lots of small things. Me, I have a problem getting rid of papers and books (even though I borrow almost everything I read at the library instead of buying the books).

More than 3 years ago I wrote a blog post (in Danish) about how Project 333 inspired me to get rid of most of my clothes. And today, 3 years later, I’m happy to report I still have as little clothes as when I wrote the blog post.

We are not only minimalists at home. When we travel with our 2 children, we can be away for weeks with only one shared suitcase. And when I go to Barcelona next month, I’m quite sure I will have the smallest suitcase in the group (so small that I need to carry my computer keyboard outside the suitcase).

The only problem with minimalism is that a lot of people don’t get it. But luckily we don’t really care what other people think. :)

And no matter what, we are so happy that we have discovered minimalism and we are definitely not going back to the “normal” consumer lifestyle.

{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: Debbi

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, Debbi tells us about her quest to “let go.” I love the honesty and joy in her story, and think many of you will relate to her struggles with, and triumph over, clutter.

Debbi writes:

Debbi

Where does the time go? Here I am, 58 and will be retiring from my main place of employment this June. Thirty years. I have accumulated so much, thoughts, feelings, dreams, expectations relating to work and life. It is too much. I don’t want the second part of my life the same. Not that the first part was bad, it was not. It was not great either. I struggled. My life was too much of everything. I do not want to live this way anymore.

I have been thinking about “letting go” for decades. One of my first occupations, I worked with people with addiction problems. This is when I first encountered the letting go concept. I was in my 20s and I was not about to let go of anything. Sure, alcoholics need to let go, but not me. Yet, the concept intrigued me and I secretly longed to let go. I wanted to be happy.

I entered into a marriage that should not have happened because of expectations I couldn’t let go. Somewhere in the twelve years of the struggling marriage with its donut makers, punch bowls, china, and big furniture, I found an article, “Letting Go” in the New Woman magazine (January, 1990). I tore that page out, put it in a plastic sleeve, and kept it through a divorce, a new career path, a daughter, several dogs and cats, friends entering in and out and back in, and several moves.

Here I am looking at this article about letting go…. And I am finally doing it, letting go of paper, books, magazines, cable, wireless, a land line phone, debt of all kinds, toxic people, holding on to my daughter, a 30 year job. Not only is the donut maker and punch bowl left my house, so did the couch, about 75 contractor bags of paper, about 24 coffee mugs, several electronics, gadgets, old cameras that no longer have the kind of film that is required, 24 chargers (to what, who knows), and items that would require an inventory specialist to program. Not one of these items was worth more than twenty dollars each. Even the couch was old, ripped, torn and faded. I called the Salvation Army and they would not take it. The Salvation Army did take away two sets of bedroom furniture and other unneeded items. I gave away what I could, donated what they would take, recycled what I could, and the rest in big plastic contractor-garbage bags.

I started about six months ago. I have this intense need to hold on. I wanted my daughter, who is now 27, to always be my little girl. I kept her books, baby clothes, (honestly clothes from every age), boxes of elementary papers. Well, the list goes on. I struggled, it seemed unnatural. Of course, we want to hold on. I like that I am loyal and dedicated. I like it when someone needs something, they come to me. I like to feel needed.

I just knew I needed a big change. I was not happy. I was confused and carried a heavy burden throughout my days. I would walk into my house; there were the same pictures, the same memories, the same bills, and the same everything. There was a burden. It was hard to breathe sometimes and there was no room for another person. One time, I just went to a hotel, for the sole purpose to get away from my home. My finances were messy, my relationships were spirally down, and I looked and felt horrible.

I am not one to throw caution to the wind, but God intervened. I discovered yoga, and strived for a simple life. I wanted time in my life for people. My family and friends think I was being impulsive, I wasn’t. I had this article on letting go, since 1990. This was planned and its time. I researched the concept of letting go which lead me to minimalizing which lead me to Miss Minimalist. Motivator. Enthusiast. Perfect.

I started big, not gradual. I knew I wanted part two of my life to be free, light and simple. Once I started, it was fun, invigorating and so very needed. I started with my closet and my bedroom, then moved on to all the bedrooms, living room, bathroom, kitchen, all closets, basement and finally the garage and shed. I now just have in my home what I truly need and a couple of items that bring me joy. My father has this saying, “Don’t ever love anything that does not love you back.” This was and is my mantra!

I canceled credit cards. I changed to a bank that is more in line with my new philosophy. I wrote letters to companies and magazines and with a bold black marker wrote, “Please take me off all mailing lists”. I changed my email address and vow no more signing up for random emails. Pictures came off the shelves and walls. I took digital pictures of everything and scanned like there is no tomorrow. I stored the pictures and scans on an external hard drive. No more knick-knacks. No more weird collections. No more clocks in every room. No more TV, cable, and other distractions. Not one non-breathing thing has come in to my house in three months. (Except for food). I promise to never ever be cluttered again. It was a burden. And now it’s lifted.  Whew! My house is lighter and I can breathe a bit easier. Thank you, Miss Minimalist.

I am standing my ground; which brings me to the next and most important stage. Letting go of 30 years of stuff was challenging, yet, I did it!  Now, I need to let go of the emotional clutter and the overwhelming need to hold on to everything. This includes letting go of worn out relationships. I have stayed with people longer than I should have. This includes holding on to goals that I made in my teens, this is letting go of certain expectations. I do not know who thought of all these expectations, but they need to go. And this is my challenge for now. As I move through the process of letting go of this emotional clutter and letting go of the need of hanging on for reasons that I don’t fully understand; I am feeling lighter, brighter, enjoyable and lovable. I am simply making room for all the good.

{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: Cheryl Magyar

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 Cheryl Magyar. Last year, her husband Roland introduced us to their minimalist lifestyle in Hungary; now Cheryl shares her side of the story. Be sure to visit their lovely blog, Handcraftedtravellers, to learn more!

Cheryl writes:

Cheryl

Cheryl

Thoughts become actions, simplicity becomes routine and once you remove yourself from a consumer mindset you will never go back.

In a suburb of Chicago I grew up in a small house which held a considerable amount of stuff. Everybody had their own personal belongings, we shared many things, but you know how it is with calendar holidays: from birthdays to merry days presents just add up. It accumulates till you feel trapped, then you give some away – and this cycle can go on forever, until you are the one to slow down the process, almost stopping it entirely.

Moving to Hungary at the age of twenty-seven was the catalyst for a major lifestyle change. My husband and I shipped twenty boxes full of books and kitchenware, two trunks bursting with clothes and some artwork we thought we couldn’t live without. We arrived long before our stuff, then ironically put it in storage for four months till the purchase of our homestead was complete.

We thought that we had made the international move with few items, but in retrospect it turned out to be too much, definitely more than we needed. People tried to give us clothes seeing that our wardrobes were “stagnant”, they tried to help occasionally with processed foods, only our hearts were not in an accepting mood.

In moving out of the cityscape not only had we inadvertently discovered the benefits of minimalism, knowing full well that what we owned was already enough, but living so close to nature our paradigm was rapidly shifting.

The relative quiet of the countryside is an inspiring place for observation and reflection. As I write this story a white wagtail (Mortacilla alba) is cleaning its feathers in the pinkish glow of the rising sun, presently joined by another. They will find lots to eat on our organic thirteen acres, then they may return to their nests, delicately woven with bits of plastic from neighboring lands and the trash of society.

And by that very measure, what some may perceive as cuteness or resourcefulness of the birds, brings a tear to my eye not only for the plight of creatures, but of man and the waste created by industry, the wants, the need to constantly fit in by buying more, the consumption that arises from boredom…

One can never be out of the consumer cycle completely. However, we can all live lighter, with deeper regard for the environment by not wanting more than we need, by choosing quality over quantity, supporting organic agriculture, purchasing locally grown, choosing handmade, wearing compostable fibers and by embracing the art of self-reliance.

A sustainable world is based on minimalist principles. For my part, that is where I live right now, always and onward into the future.

{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.}