Real Life Minimalists Update: Sacha

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

Today we have an update from Sacha, who was first featured in July 2015. She tells us how some difficulties over the past year have actually changed her life for the better.

Sacha writes:

In July 2015 I wrote about the ways I tried to incorporate minimalism into my life, getting rid of stuff when I moved house and my personal Doomsday Prepping tendencies.

Quite a bit happened since then. Due to a reorganisation I lost my job. So… that personal doomsday I used to fear, turned out to be a reality it seemed. But…it wasn’t a Doomsday at all, I was ok! I saw it as an opportunity instead of a threat. New Year’s Day, Birth Day, Independence Day rolled into one instead of a Doomsday. All the people around me have been a very big influence in this process. How long are you going to be hanging on? How long are you willing to sell your mental and physical wellbeing for a job and the required travel time? Wouldn’t you have more time to enjoy life if you didn’t have 12+ hours of travelling each week? My goal was to find a new job close to home, max 30 minutes by bike. The commute was getting too complicated to be ‘stressless’ with the ever present danger of trains getting cancelled.

Now I have found a new job in my home town and I am enjoying my time off before I start my new job at a great company and pretty nice future colleagues. I have been sending loads of things to goodwill since most things were getting on my already frayed nerves. I have been getting rid of old striped wallpaper and replaced that with plain white walls. I have bought mason jars for my rice, sugar etc to replace half open packages. I have been rediscovering my artwork again. My bedroom is a white haven with my colourful collages lined up against one wall. I have started two Instagram accounts to minimize photo albums and maximize the fun I have looking at my photos regularly and venting my quirky view on the world around me (I have a personal one and I have one for my scarves).

I have been working in my garden a lot, started yoga and eating better and better after attending a Salutogenese workshop, giving workshops on how to make scarves, connecting with kindred spirits online and offline and I have three little ladies in the garden now (I kept one of the chicks that hatched last year) and I have been trying to go ‘zero waste’… well…. ‘less waste’ to be more accurate, I am trying to ‘brew’ my own kombucha. My happy hippy inner child has a happier outer adult now since the difficulties I faced over the last 12 months turned out to be a godsend in hindsight. I am finding out that I have built in rose tinted glasses.

{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: Linnea

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 Linnea from Sweden, who tells us how moving often, and welcoming a little one, has inspired her to live lightly. Check out her blog to read more of her thoughts.

Linnea writes:

Linnea

Linnea

I discovered minimalism the summer of 2010 when I helped my parents to move while I was moving myself as well. My move was ok but theirs was quite overwhelming with hundreds of boxes that filled two lorries, one with a trailer, and I realized how much ‘stuff’ stresses me out. I also found an article about the 100-things movement among my dad’s books and as I started reading about the whole minimalism thing through different blogs (missminimalist.com included) it resonated more and more with me. I got rid of some of my own things, which I always loved doing for some reason (we moved every few years when I was younger, and when I was in my early 20’s it was every few months, and the first thing I did was always to start decluttering my things), but it wasn’t until about 9 months later when I suddenly decided to move from Sweden to Belgium and then New York that I took the plunge completely. I got rid of most of my things in a couple of weeks, packed a suitcase, and five months later I returned completely bitten by the minimalist bug and I’ve tried to keep things simple ever since. I only have a few pieces of clothing (about ten), I try to only have things that give me joy or that are useful and me and my husband live fairly simple lives. But I still find things to declutter and I always dream of owning less.

It’s not until now however that me and my husband had our first child seven months ago that I’m starting to realize the importance of only focusing on the most important things and not spending my time doing everything else. I have gotten quite good at keeping materialistic things to a good level for me, but I’ve had difficulties focusing only on the most important activities in my life and not wasting a bunch of time doing things that don’t matter as much. But now that I have a small person demanding most of my time, many things that I could easily do before, such as spending hours watching YouTube videos or reading blogs or obsessively checking Instagram all the time, have lost their importance and since I suddenly have much less “free time” I have to spend that time very consciously, only doing the things that are truly important to me.

When I first found out I was pregnant I slightly panicked at the thought of all the things people said you needed. But my main thought was that children has managed without tons of stuff for the majority of history and so would my son. We only have a few outfits for him, maybe ten toys stationed at different parts of the apartment and a few books he likes to read over and over and over.

And even though I considered our home fairly minimalistic it’s now that we are baby proofing and preparing for a crawling/walking baby that wants to pull and chew on everything I suddenly saw even more things that we could declutter or move around. To be honest I wasn’t too happy when my husband suggested we get rid of some things in the living room because I liked the way it was but after some thought and even more decluttering we now only have a couch and small table in the living room, freeing up a lot more space for our son to move around freely.

Life keeps changing and it keep me on my toes. Stress is still a huge problem for me but keeping things simple and pared down really helps.

{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: Ang

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 Ang, who tells us how cleaning out her parents’ home has inspired her to live with (much) less. Surf on over to her blog to read more.

Ang writes:

Ang and Sporty

Ang and Sporty

My parents lived in three places their entire married life. My brother was born when they were living in their first apartment, I arrived in their second home and then we moved as a family to house number three. And that’s where they stayed for the next forty plus years.

When the time came to move our folks into a retirement home and sell their house, I had to face the task alone (my brother passed away in 2005). There was so much stuff I had no idea where to begin.

I felt completely daunted by the magnitude of what I had to accomplish, but in the end I just started. I knew the longer I put it off, the worse I’d feel. I was ruthless. Knowing my parents wouldn’t be needing any of the stuff again, I donated and threw away pretty much everything.

This was before Sporty and I became minimalists, but even back then I wasn’t very sentimental. I kept the family photos and a few small mementos, but that was it.

At the time I was too overwhelmed to even consider that it might be having an impact on me, but cleaning out my parents’ home proved to be the catalyst that set us on our minimalist journey.

A year later we were getting ready to move again when I suggested to my wife, Sporty (her name is Saskia, but what started out as a joke online has stuck), that we sell everything and move into a furnished apartment.

I said it in a joke to test the waters, but I’d actually never been more serious about anything in my life. I just couldn’t face the thought of going through the whole moving process (finding boxes, packing, arranging movers etc.) again and the idea that there might be a way around it really appealed to me.

Not so side note: Sporty and I tend to move a lot, so lugging a household of stuff around just doesn’t make sense for the likes of us. Yet for years that’s exactly what we did. Looking back we still can’t believe it took us so long to get rid of everything.

I’m lucky in that Sporty is a) even less sentimental than I am and b) always open to new ideas. The next thing I knew we’d listed all our belongings on Gumtree (the local version of Craigslist) and sold everything.

Well, almost everything. It took a number of subsequent moves for us to pare down completely. But even so, we felt so liberated by the experience we ran around for weeks with these huge grins on our faces.

That was July, 2008 and we haven’t looked back or regretted the decision for a single minute. Three years later I had the opportunity to share our story at TEDx Cape Town. The response was incredible, I was amazed by how well the message was received by everyone.

That prompted me to start Mostly Mindful. In the beginning I wrote mostly about minimalism and decluttering. Sporty and I also eat a plant-based diet and try to live a sustainable life, so I began writing about that as well.

We’re known by our friends and colleagues as ‘those hippies’ because we cycle or walk everywhere, because we have a compost bucket that we take to the local city farm once a week and because we drink green smoothies for breakfast. (I think it’s the last one that horrifies them the most.)

We don’t think it’s that weird, but for a lot of people it’s a pretty bizarre lifestyle. It’s actually not. We live in town in a regular (albeit slightly small) apartment, we buy groceries at the mall and we go to the movies as often as possible. We’re also not averse to eating junk food occasionally.

I think what throws people is that we don’t own a car or a television and we have no debt whatsoever. We’re also really happy. Happier, in fact, than we’ve ever been.

{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: Wendy

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 Wendy, who tells us about her minimalist journey as a new grandmother. Her story is a lovely reminder of how minimalism helps us make room for what matters most.

Wendy writes:

Wendy's family

Wendy’s family

Looking back on my life, I always felt a twinge of freedom or lightness when I got rid of something that I didn’t need in my life. Now I am able to identify that as a desire to live with less.

My husband and I are in our 50’s, have four children in their 20’s, one son in law and a darling toddler grandson. Two years ago I packed one carry on suitcase and flew to spend time with our daughter and husband when their son was born. I realized I could have stayed the entire summer with the contents of that small bag. There was such simplicity in having just a few favorite outfits, jewelry pieces and shoes to choose from each day. If I’d had a footwear crisis I could have borrowed from my daughter as she does when she visits us! The time spent with our new family member was delightful in their cozy, small but efficient basement suite.

Upon arriving home I purged my wardrobe knowing for sure I wanted to live with less in that area of my life. Decluttering all corners of the house has come as well, although it’s just the tip of the iceberg. What I am finding, is that clutter and stuff is often many layers deep and unused and unnecessary items behind a cupboard door or stored efficiently are STILL clutter.

We are fortunate a Goodwill pick up is available in our neighborhood and our home is a frequent stop. I have adopted the mindset of what do I want to keep rather than what should I get rid of. What TRULY is adding value to my life?

Most likely these sayings are words taken from other folks, but I believe we cannot hear them enough.

Our grown children have boomeranged due to work, school, travel and other circumstances. Most recently our daughter, her husband and child lived with us for 8 weeks after they were evacuated from their Fort McMurray, Alberta home. They left their city with one suitcase, a photo album and a few special baby blankets.

For many days they believed their home and possibly their business were lost in the fire and the conversations around this event taught us many things. It was the relationships they mourned. Young families they lived life with were now dispersed around the country. This is what they missed. It was not about the stuff.

Any day now our lovely daughter is to give birth to their second child and my husband and I will make a trip to their home, miraculously spared in the huge Fort McMurray fire. We will greet a new grandchild. We are blessed.

As to the future, our journey towards minimalism will continue, but not without challenges. Our home is still a storage area for totes of possessions belonging to grown children who are not quite settled… My husband and I don’t always agree on what needs to be edited or eliminated… It’s also a home with many well-loved toys that delight children when they visit. Maybe my next story will be about Minimalism and Grand-parenting.

I can feel it already…

{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: Missne

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, Missne shares the inspirational story of how she pared down her stuff, and sees her move into a smaller place as “progress” (love it!). If you’d like to connect with her, you can find her on Twitter.

Missne writes:

Missne

Missne

I decided many years ago that having a TV wasn’t important to me. I’m a gamer, I’m a nerd – if I want to watch something, it’ll be on the computer. Ad-free. On my own time. And If I don’t have a TV, why do I need a couch? I only have a dog, and he’s happy without a couch. He’d be happy without a clock, too, but I’m not there yet.

The term minimalism came into my life through random browsing, searching for inspiration, feeling restless and frustrated with my life. I instantly fell in love with the foundation: Does it add value? No? Get rid of it.

I grabbed a trash bag and went over my desk. Filled the trash bag, grabbed another one, went for the next area. Filled three, grabbed a big plastic bag instead. By the time I had excitedly minimized away five trash bags and three big black bags, I stopped and looked around me, hoping to be impressed with my results – and realized that a) I couldn’t really remember a lot of what I put in the bags at all, and b) my place was still not the spotless, white and chrome perfection I had seen in the inspirational pictures.

Huh. How is that possible? The pile of bags I just filled took up a third of my living room! Where was all the space I had envisioned? Where was the peace and calm? Where was my gosh darn white leather couch with the casual-not-so-casual artsy blanket draped over the edge like in the pictures?

When I last moved house, I decided to go all out. Be callous with your items. If you don’t feel anything about ‘em, ditch ‘em. If you don’t like ‘em, ditch ‘em. If they’re broken, ugly, far into a cupboard, or in a drawer – ditch ‘em. We ended up making two trips to the recycling station, but just one to my new apartment.

“So how big is your new place?” Smaller than the one I left. People get taken aback: why would you move into a smaller place? Can’t you afford progress? This is progress to me. So much better. Closer to work, next to a park, emptier. Cleaner. Calmer.

I have everything I need. If I didn’t, I would have noticed by now. Getting rid of the items I didn’t use also meant noticing the items that still fill a purpose.

I have a beautiful silicone funnel that is designed to look like a lily, which happens to be my favorite flower. Now, I’m sure a lot of people would simply think: why? But I know why. It’s because I need a funnel often enough to own one, and I want one that makes me happy, that adds value to my life beyond simply doing a chore for me.

To me, that is minimalism.

{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: Christa

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 Christa from South Africa, who explains how a housing transition made her fall in love with small space living.

Christa writes:

My Minimalist AHA-Moment

The idea of small space living has always appealed to me. I remember as a singleton buying books on the subject, feverishly doing research on campervan living and imagining a life by the sea – something along the lines of the Joshua Kadison song ”A little trailer by the sea – you the cat and me”.

Then marriage and life rolled along and with it came the trapping of stuff. Loads and loads of stuff. Doubles and triples of things you never even knew you needed when two lives become one.

Fast forward the milestone birthday of my husband. The Big 50. We decided to celebrate this passage of life with a cruise to the Mediterranean. With this coincided the sale of our house and in our minds we boxed up everything, kept clothes and living essentials aside for a summer cruise holiday and a summer work wardrobe, and promptly moved in with my parents while waiting for the house transfer to go through and for the house renovations to be completed.

Needless to say, six months down the line we are still living with my parents, in a 3x3m room while dealing with all the trials and tribulations of an illegal squatter who refuses to move out of our house, and the pleasures of renovating the cottage and office in the meantime.

The light at the end of the tunnel is fast approaching as the renovations are heading for completion, but the best we took from this experience is how little we actually need to live on. It has since turned winter and we had to pick up a winter jacket and jersey or two from storage (I am sadly still looking for my boots), but guess what? We are absolutely fine and are coping with the suitcase full of clothes and shoes we originally packed for the summer vacation and few days of work.

I can’t wait to move into the new house and tackle the endless boxes of clothing and shoes. I can’t wait to follow the KonMari method of holding the piece of clothing up and asking myself if I truly love it and if it will add joy to my life. We have downsized and have moved into the one bedroom cottage on the property in the meantime, but with all the little luxuries you can wish for: a real fireplace, an alley of a backyard filled with hours of sunlight. Big Eucalyptus trees grace the front entrance and our big daybed has already found its place underneath. The TV hasn’t been hooked up yet, but spending time with the Great Dane, Border Collie and Maltese Poodle more than makes up for the mindless energy spent on flipping between channels with still nothing much to watch.

I may still be a virgin at the minimalist mind set, but as many things in life it takes one step at a time. Sometimes it takes a total shake up of not being able to live in your own home for six months to integrate into a new system of doing and believing.

I don’t recommend the same route we followed – it’s nerve wrecking on the best of days – but be on the lookout for your AHA moment. It may be hidden under the seven pairs of jeans.

{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: Darcy

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, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Darcy. She tells us how living with her stuff in storage for a few years inspired her to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle. It’s given her more time to pursue activities she loves, like building her book blog.

Darcy writes:

Darcy

If you saw our book collection, you probably wouldn’t apply the term “minimalist” to my husband and I. Between us we have eight bookcases full of books. We’re both teachers and our books are our treasures, but despite our stacks of books, we consider ourselves minimalists. One thing I have learned since beginning this journey is that being a minimalist is not a competition to see who owns less. Minimalism should and will look different for everyone.

My journey toward minimalism began a little over a year ago. While I’ve never liked clutter and I’ve always loved to be organized, it took six moves in six years and my husband and I placing almost all our belongings in storage for two years for us to realize what a burden our excessive possessions had become.

Almost seven years ago my husband and I met as first-year Ph.D. students. We quickly realized the job market wouldn’t make continuing in our programs worthwhile and thus began a series of moves, adjunct teaching jobs and dead end opportunities which culminated in us moving in with my parents while my husband went back to school to get a teaching credential. During these two years I lived out of my suitcase and my husband out of his duffel bag, our daughter was born and shared our tiny room, her extensive wardrobe was put in the dresser, and everything else was in boxes in my parents’ spare bedroom and in the storage facility we had to rent. I mourned our loss of space and independence and lived for the moment when we could get back on our feet.

We were blessed in that my husband found a job quickly after he graduated. As we prepared to move our things out of storage and into our apartment last year, I decided to organize our storage unit. Our previous move had been a hasty one and I liked the idea of getting to our new place and having everything in order. What began as organization turned into an eye-opening journey as I sorted through boxes and pulled out things I had forgotten we owned – Why did I have four sets of mixing bowls? Five whisks? Two crock pots and shoes I hadn’t worn for years? What was I doing with a drying rack we never used and clothes that would obviously never fit again? It is amazing what perspective two years away from your stuff can give you. During this time I happened upon the Minimalists TEDX talk and Miss Minimalist’s blog, which resulted in further reading of minimalist websites and blogs. Feeling inspired and motivated, we took carload after carload of items to our local donation center. Each trip left us feeling lighter, energized, and more in control of our life. In the end, having to move in with my parents for two years became a great blessing in our lives for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest ones is that my husband and I learned how good it feels to live with less.

I am still developing my identity as a minimalist. I don’t like the sterility, starkness, and modernity of a lot of minimalist décor. I love color, art, and home decorating. No white walls for me, please. Keeping my craft items to a minimum isn’t always easy. I struggle to donate my daughter’s toys and to communicate to well-meaning relatives and friends that we don’t want or need many things for ourselves, or our daughter. I am grateful there are websites and blogs of like-minded people where I can learn strategies to deal with these issues.

There has been a surprising amount of side benefits to this lifestyle. Minimalism has helped my husband and I focus on paying off our student loans. We don’t use credit cards anymore and we’re paying off our car a year early. It has given me time to start building my book blog: The Crumbly Scone. Most surprising to me though is that I’ve begun thinking about ways to live a zero waste lifestyle. Something I can honestly say I never really cared about.

Yesterday I watched Lauren Singer’s TEDX talk, “Why I Live a Zero Waste Life” and I loved the words she ended with: “I want to be remembered for the things I did while I was on this planet, and not for the trash I left behind.” This sentiment, I think, is at the root of what we’re all striving for as minimalists.

{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: Daisy

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 story from Daisy. She’s been battling a hoarding tendency since childhood, until a natural disaster gave her a new perspective on her possessions. Visit her blog to follow her minimalist journey.

Daisy writes:

Yes, that photo’s a glimpse of my place before I became a minimalist.

So how’d it get that bad?

You could say I was born with it.

I grew up in a family that was full of love but low on funds. My parents built a business from 6 am to 3 am six or seven days a week while my grandma babysat me.

Bits and pieces of those days are still clear to me: when we couldn’t afford to buy food sometimes, when I wore Mom’s old things to school, and even the time the counselor pulled me aside to see if everything was fine at home. The teachers said it just wasn’t normal for a seven-year-old to turn down parent-child trips and collect her own report cards every semester.

Eventually, hard work and faith in God paid off and we had more than enough to live on. I’m proud of how my family worked hard to provide for us, but that time of lack meant we had learned to hoard everything just in case.

Everything: worn socks I’d had since kindergarten, newspapers from before I was born, free pens that didn’t work, broken paintbrushes… You name it, we probably had it.

In senior year, I started reading books on simplicity and they helped me see my hoarding for what it was. But every time I started decluttering, I couldn’t bear to throw anything out.

So I organized. I bought magazine racks, drawers, and huge plastic bins, and stored everything out of sight. But they eventually overflowed with more stuff and I gave up. All through college, homework was done on the floor since it was the only space I could spread my books on.

During that time, I also began traveling more. I learned to love how I could pack a month’s clothes into a carry-on bag. I felt so free with my little bag when I was away, and so bogged down when I got home to piles of stuff. I promised myself I’d figure out my hoarding problem, but it just felt too hard.

Then I woke up in the middle of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake three years ago. I huddled under a blanket and prayed God would make it stop while the house fell apart.

My family survived without injury but buildings had collapsed and others we knew were worse off.

During the quake, a gift I’d always hated almost killed my dog. Finding out about that left me with lots of feelings: gratefulness my dog had escaped getting hurt, sadness at the thought of what could have happened, but also anger. Anger at the stuff that had made it more dangerous for those I loved in that intense time.

That anger pushed me to take minimalism seriously.

I wanted to keep only the things I’d cared about while I was under that quilt waiting out the disaster. So I gave more than half my things away: 40-ish boxes of perfectly good things I’d rarely used. I also threw out ruined stuff I couldn’t have parted from before.

Why was I able to change that time when I’d kept failing at it years back? Because I’d been looking at minimalism all wrong.

Those other times, I wanted to become a minimalist to have less stuff. But adopting minimalism to be minimal isn’t what all this is about.

Instead, minimalism is a path we can walk towards what we want. In my case, the path would lead to making room for what mattered to me. Aiming to have less stuff wasn’t motivating enough, but building a meaningful life was a dream worth pushing forward for.

Since then, it’s a work in progress. I started writing about killing my hoarding habit on my blog, made friends with other minimalists who’ve encouraged me, and let my feelings of freedom push me to keep going.

Now I’m a real life minimalist, as Francine would say. Simplifying my life has helped me feel less stressed and more “me”.

{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: Greta

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, Greta tells us the steps she’s taking to simplify her life, reduce waste, consume more mindfully, and create a calm and serene space for her family.

Greta writes:

Greta

Greta

My minimalism journey started about two years ago after reading Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. I couldn’t even finish the book, I had to do something right then! I started researching fair trade clothing and food, and realized if we were going to be able to afford these things, I’d need to stop wasting money on stuff I’d purge in a year or two. I started thinking about which clothes made me look the best in photos {settled on pastel pink and blue, white lacy things, and navy}; so I made a pact with myself not to buy anything outside those colors and to buy as much as I could made in ethical ways {fair trade, sustainable, well made} and purged things in the wrong colors.

Then I learned how pollution is disproportionately affecting poorer countries and we’re running out of landfill space here, and shipping our trash to those same countries. I found several zero waste blogs, and started eliminating some of the disposable clutter: I buy as much as I can from bulk containers and take the jars that the food will be stored in to the store with me. We now use handkerchiefs and don’t have ugly boxes of kleenex in every room.

Finally, we’re packing up our 850 sq ft one bedroom apartment for a move to a slightly larger place, but smaller rooms and less storage as we’re gaining an extra bedroom for the baby. When we first moved in to this apartment, there were little rabbit trails through mounds of boxes-each of our things, wedding gifts, stuff I was saving for the someday house. I’ve been purging ever since, but this move has motivated me to pitch even more. We both want our new place to be a calm and serene space, good for Daniel to study in and safe for the baby.

I’m guessing we’ve sold or donated about half our possessions in the past year. Some big: my bike, a chair, a {music} keyboard, a desk with lots of storage, the file cabinet, an extra car. And mounds of little things: specialty baking pans, extras of kitchen utensils, books {lots of books!}, most of our CDs.

{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

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 such a lovely story from Jennifer, who tells us how living with less has transformed her life and brought her joy. Do visit her blog to read more about her experiences and adventures.

Jennifer writes:

Jennifer

Jennifer

If we’d met five years ago, ‘minimalist’ would be the very last word you’d have used to describe me. At the time, I owned 100+ pairs of shoes and a ginormous wardrobe (my walk in closet was almost bigger than my current apartment!). I spent almost all my free time shopping, thinking about shopping, or organising my stuff.

The idea that less might equal more had definitely never entered my mind.

Then one day, while randomly browsing the internet, I came across a few minimalist blogs (including this one!). I clicked and clicked and clicked – I was absolutely fascinated by the stories I was reading.

When I was younger, I spent several years travelling around the world, free as could be, with few possessions to weigh me down. It was a magical time, but I never considered that this freedom could be carried into my ‘normal’ life – until I was introduced to minimalism.

I started to imagine what my life might look like without so much stuff.

I could choose to work part time or to do more meaningful work; I could have more money and time for experiences I enjoyed, or I could travel more and spend time with family overseas.

It all sounded wonderful, so I set about to make some real changes in my life.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. My first dozen or so attempts at decluttering were complete failures. I was still too emotionally attached to my stuff and – in retrospect – I needed to deal with some bigger issues first.

I was unhappy in my relationship and career, I was struggling with self acceptance, and I had no clear direction or purpose in my life. Shopping and owning a lot of things was my way of self-medicating and avoiding facing the truth.

It was a long journey, but over the course of several years, I ended my relationship, made several big moves, and asked myself some hard questions about my values, my priorities and the type of person I wanted to be.

Finally, I was able to see minimalism in a new light. I stopped thinking of it as a restrictive lifestyle; instead, I could see it was a tool to help me to live the life I wanted most.

Since then, my life has completely changed.

I paid off considerable debt and stopped living paycheque to paycheque. I sold my full to the brim two bedroom house and I now live comfortably in a small studio, and all my possessions easily fit into my small hatchback. I’ve started a new relationship, with someone whose values match mine, and we’ve travelled around the world together. I quit working full-time and I started a passion project.

I’ve gone from feeling trapped and hopeless to head over heels in love with life. This doesn’t mean things are perfect, but it does mean that most days I wake up with gratitude and hope in my heart.

{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.}