Real Life Minimalists: Jo Bennett

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, Jo Bennett, a Canadian minimalist with a life coaching and organizing practice in Toronto, offers us a deep look into the psychological benefits of simplifying. Visit her blog to learn more.

Jo writes:

Jo Bennett

Jo Bennett

Taking charge

It was about fifteen years ago when I felt the first shift toward simplifying my life. A primary relationship that was proving to be a drain on my personal resources required new boundaries. Like with any change, there was a sudden dip in energy as I coped with my decision but very quickly it revealed that I am the guardian of my contentment. This was an important lesson about standing up for what I need and discovering freedom by saying “No”.

Simplify and all will be well?

From then on I slowly restructured my life with a ‘quality over quantity’ mantra in reference to friendships, diet, hobbies and possessions. Every year I would make changes in my work: I improved time management, went paperless, made better use of technology and streamlined information processing. However, no matter how much I focused my life, encounters with mild depression were increasing and I developed what I call an anxiety ‘habit’.

Reduction is just one side of the minimalist coin

There was something cathartic about this reorganizing yet I found myself sometimes feeling bereft of joy and magic. I could breathe when I looked at the clean uncluttered surface of a table for example but it did not make me smile. I started to notice that I was not noticing my life! With few barriers to block my view, I could see that I had further work to do. It was at this point, about four years ago, that I started sharing my journey via my blog Minimalist Self.

Giving myself permission to soar

A message I glean from the design world is that minimalism is not about reducing expression. Rather than just appreciate that a space is empty, I can also contemplate what beauty has been revealed as a result. Through mindfulness I have found ways to pause and grab a hold of such wonder. On a tangible level, we have a rule in the house that when one thing comes in, something goes out. This is a conscious way to welcome inspiring objects that contribute to a soothing environment. For mental relief I created an exercise called ‘No Gadget Night’ that allows me to sit in visual and auditory quiet so I can relax, have wonderful conversations with my husband and we sleep much better! To connect with my soul I follow a daily routine I call ‘Four Joy’; this is when I register deep observation of tiny moments that make me laugh and feel happy. Overall I am experiencing more optimism. Essentially, I am letting in more light.

A new outlook

Especially as a self employed person, it is through the lens of minimalism that I contemplate my ‘life work’: this refers to my money making activities but also my efforts to give back to my professions and contribute to my communities. But most of all it guides me when taking care of loved ones and myself. Through coaching and my studies in positive psychology, I have explored empathy and compassion, and have forged resiliency through courage and action. All of this instils a stronger sense of self worth. Not everything goes my way and I still feel blue sometimes but the perspective of ‘less is more’ does make things easier. I can honestly say I love my 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 subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: The Chasse Family

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 The Chasse Family. They began their minimalist journey over a decade ago, and are still finding ways to simplify. Please visit their blog to read more!

Larry writes:

The Chasse Family

The Chasse Family

My name is Larry Chasse and I blog about simple living at my blog: http://www.cagefreeology.com/. We have been on this journey now for over 11 years and we are still learning.

The first thing I usually like to read is the why. Why did we begin our journey into simple living? We began our journey as a family way back when my son was first born.

My wife wanted to be home for our son, so we took a hard look at our current level of spending and possessions. What could we cut from our budget and get rid of in order for our family to live on one income?

The process of simplifying and paying off debt had begun for us. Along the way we had job and life changes that were made easier by having a simpler life. The road was still long and we certainly had some setbacks here and there with regard to Murphy expenses.

When you get to the point of having an emergency fund, fewer debts and fewer possessions, Murphy does not have the same impact as he once did. We noticed our stress levels decreased as we removed debt and clutter from our home.

Here we are 12 years later and we are still finding ways to simplify our lives. We have moved from a 2,000 square foot home into a 900 square foot home.

Remember there is a real cost to everything we own. Homes, cars, lawn mowers, and other items all have maintenance and upkeep costs associated with them. If you add those costs up and divide by your hourly pay, you get the number of hours you have to work have these things. Remember to take into account your government taxes when calculating your true hourly rate.

Why the smaller home? Simple, you have less to clean, less to maintain, it is cheaper to heat and cool and honestly it is enough room. We took a very close look at the rooms we actually use on a daily basis in our home and concluded we did not need all that extra space.

Simplifying your life or minimalism is all about the journey. We are constantly learning about ourselves and finding out if we can be happier with changes in life. Some people like the bigger homes or automobiles. You need to find where you happiness lies and then make every effort to get there.

For my wife and I, we have found the simpler we live, our happiness has increased. We would rather have the money to go on family trips or creating memories than in our stuff.

{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: Kate

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 Kate, who shares how a simple decluttering session led her family to a more mindful, minimalist lifestyle.

Kate writes:

We started out having a pre-Christmas clear out. Our little one was 18months old, and we were anticipating an influx of gifts. Well meaning, given with love, wonderful gifts. But lots of them.

We knew we didn’t want more children, so sorting through things outgrown was a habit acquired early. Partly I wanted to pay forward the generosity of all the hand-me downs we had received. Also there was a consciousness of space, in our two bed flat.

Probably the first thing I thought about was what to do with the wonderful scribbles, drawings, and paintings. I didn’t want to end up with cupboards full of ‘her first painting’ etc. So I set up this: www.toddlerartgallery.co.uk. Things she made go on display, get photographed. And then recycled. One or two have made it into the keepsake cupboard- more on that later.

About the same time I became interested in Montessori principles of education. One revelation was that a toybox meant a child couldn’t see and get to what they had. I looked at my daughter on tiptoes trying to open the lid and realised there was no way she could see or know what she had. So an idea formed; if I could fit what she had on a shelf or two that she could reach, she could see and choose her toys.

It worked, and she didn’t miss what had gone. She played more imaginatively, I cleared up faster. I moved her clothes to where she could reach and chose them, and pared them down as I did it. I learnt how to involve her in the process, and she has surprised me by understanding and taking part in it willingly.

As we watched the pleasure her de-cluttered room brought her, we re-did the pre-Christmas clear out. How could we bring this joy of knowing what you have and using it to its full potential to our lives too?

It’s been nearly a year now. We must have given away 10 car loads. And then we sold the car.

The keepsake cupboard is no longer a space things go and never return from. Things have come out, on display where they can be enjoyed. Many, many things have been recycled, as I realised I couldn’t remember why I kept them. As with all things in our home it has become a flexible space. Something can be loved, treasured and saved. And then re-evaluated. We put the TV in the cupboard this week; re-evaluation pending.

The things we like are multi-functional, easy to use, maintain and clean. The distinction between ‘adults’; ‘kids’; ‘toys’ and ‘tools’ is blurred, messy and fun. A 2.5 year old can play with a scrabble set; an hour spend preparing a meal together is brilliant family play.

We are starting to think about stuff in the wider context- how to be less busy; have space for ourselves, alone and together. How to use wisely the increased time and money we have. We rush about less, we do one thing a day, when we can. Have one play date, see one friend.

I realise I’m switching between ‘we’ and ‘I’. My husband has been very much with me, and has supported, encouraged and surprised me. Some things it has felt like ‘we’  have done, some ‘I’. It’s confusing to read, but feels more honest, to write it like that.

I have read a lot, learnt a lot, and thought a lot about many of the issues this rich, Western, consumerist life presents us with. What do we really need? What is life about? What matters? I don’t have the answers but I’m enjoying the challenging questions.

{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: Green Girl

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 inspirational story from Green Girl, who tells us about the wonderful freedom she’s gained from her minimalist lifestyle. Visit her blog to read more!

Green Girl writes:

I started minimalism a few years ago when I read “No Impact Man”. I realized that living an eco-friendly lifestyle was more than just hybrids and solar panels. It really should be about reducing consumption first, then substituting with eco-friendly alternatives. However, a funny thing happened when I stopped consuming so much. I became happier. I was not at all deprived. Instead, I felt liberated. Then, I went beyond a reduction in consumerism and started getting rid of things that I wasn’t using. I figured it would save the world a few resources if someone else could use it instead of it sitting in a closet, on a shelf or in a cabinet… collecting dust. My time spent cleaning and organizing, dropped tremendously. Then, I went beyond ‘stuff’ and got rid of cable, starting walking and biking to the store and library and carpooled with colleagues.

The best part though, was that my bank account started to soar… effortlessly. Wow. At this point I realized that I did not need to work full time at a stressful job that wasn’t making my soul sing. So, I took the final plunge, sold my car and I quit my job and semi-retired. Now, semi-retirement does not mean that I am going to sit around and do nothing. I still want to work, but now, I work because I want to work, not because I have to work. I take part time work and project based work. I’m working on a couple of ebooks. I tutor. I provide independent consulting and coaching services for businesses and individuals. I volunteer… a lot. My life is very fulfilling and I truly believe it is mainly from simple living.

Since I now have complete control over my schedule, I have been able to expand my minimalist thinking to my diet and exercise habits as well! Now, I have time to shop for and prepare fresh foods so that I don’t need to eat processed, convenience foods. With a cleaner diet and no car, I don’t need to spend hours at the gym.

In addition to my personal life, diet and exercise, I have also extended minimalist thinking to my business life as well. I stick with investments and business opportunities that are low risk, low liability and have low to no barriers to entry. I also make sure that every business that I am involved in is a benefit for people and planet, not just profit.

I could go on and on about all the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle, but the truth is that everyone is seeking health, wealth and happiness. Minimalism is the quickest to get there, in my opinion (and experience). Minimalism is also a truly green lifestyle.

If you would like to learn more about me, please visit my blog: www.greengirlsdontgetfat.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: Maria

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

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

Maria writes:

Photo by Maria

My minimalist blind spot: paper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real Life Minimalists: Judy

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

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

Judy writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real Life Minimalists: Jacob Jolibois

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

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

Jacob writes:

Jacob

Jacob

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real Life Minimalists: Aselle

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

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

Aselle writes:

Aselle

Aselle

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

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

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

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

Real Life Minimalists: SimpleBean

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

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

SimpleBean writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real Life Minimalists: Jessie

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

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

Jessie writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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