Real Life Minimalists: Kevin

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, Kevin from Ecuador tells us how his new minimalist mindset has changed his life in so many ways. You can hear more about his experiences by following him on Twitter.

Kevin writes:

Kevin

Hello. My name is Kevin. I’m 26 years old from Quito, Ecuador.

I apologize for any mistakes in my English.

I just want to thank you because since I started to read your blog really changed my life completely.

Initially to start reading your posts I was upset with me, although at first I did not know why, then I realized it was a kind of envy because I wanted a freer life without much disruption. I was tied to my stuff, my bills and the image I had bought. I was paying a supposedly perfect idea of life.

I’m not a minimalist at all, I rather consider myself someone who enjoys being minimalist. I have reduced my belongings. Many times I was obsessed with the number of things I had but then I realized that this is not necessarily the goal. Although it remains an interesting challenge, perhaps to learn a little more about yourself.

The process itself was much easier because I read experiences of many people and many blogs.

I started to realize that I was tied to many things and also kept my feelings. All this to stay in my comfort zone. Now things are different.

I started first remove the things that had for some time thought: “Sometime I’m going to use” and saw that there were clothes that I had not worn in years!

I gathered all my clothes and analyze if it’s something I really only use it if I have it or because it was a gift.

I stick with things you really need, it does the job and ensure quality that will last me a long time. Finally I learned to prioritize quality over quantity.

I analyze my belongings, the things I do and why I do it. And analyze my relationships as there were some it consumed me. Now I give more time to people who really accept who I am and enjoy a sincere friendship.

When I ordered my priorities and my consumption, my debts began to disappear. I started to have more money which still do not see it useful simply because I see no need to buy anything.

I feel that I wanted to help people and see that they have many problems in their life. Debt problems, money problems, relationship problems. And I wanted to help but I’ve noticed that people are very reluctant to change.

The single most difficult aspect for me was to change the food. It’s hard to eat healthy because my job there is only junk food. Sometime I wish you write some more about it if possible.

I leave thanking you for being part of my transformation in my habits and my new 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: K.

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 K., whose experience living in Vietnam has inspired her minimalist journey. I love the description of her living arrangements–a reminder that most of us have an abundance of space and stuff.

K. writes:

K.

Throughout my life, I’ve always felt the desire to simplify. To me, a simple life meant the opportunity for clarity and focus. However, these thoughts and desires were buried underneath my ‘normal’ American upbringing, and only surfaced sporadically and mystically.

Growing up, I’d say I had an average amount of ‘stuff.’ I kept my belongings neat and orderly, but I wasn’t the best at giving things away, for fear needing it later, and/or for the desire to get the most out of something I already owned.

After grad school, I lived and worked in Vietnam for a couple of years. Having to pack all my necessities into 2 bags was the first real impetus for living out minimalism in my life. I felt liberated as I packed, realizing how little was actually needed of the stuff I had moved from apartment to apartment for the past several years. My minimalist soul was surfacing, but this time I was aware of it and wanted it to stay.

Living in Vietnam taught me many things about simple living, but the greatest lessons came during the month I lived with 5 Vietnamese friends in a ~200 square foot studio apartment. I was amazed by how seamlessly they kept a rhythm of life together with such limited resources and in such close quarters.  It showed me how little is needed to sleep, eat, clean, and even entertain in a living space. Most of all, I was amazed at how they cooked delicious Vietnamese meals with just 1 pot and 1 pan in their makeshift kitchen that consisted of a small propane stove and a ground-level faucet and drain (not even a refrigerator -fresh food from the market daily).

This past year I moved back to the U.S. and was highly motivated to maintain a minimalist lifestyle in my home country. It was perfect timing because I was living alone for the first time in my life and was able to start from scratch to set up my apartment exactly how I wished. I love my new space – it’s beautiful, simple, and peaceful. I am continually assessing what I have in order to keep only value-adding (whether in utility or beauty) objects in my life and home.

However, as we all know, minimalism is not just about less stuff. I mentioned that my real drive for simplicity was a desire for clarity and focus. Along with my move abroad, my minimalist desires have also been particularly strong in these past few years as I’ve been on an intense spiritual journey or ‘quarter-life crisis’. My hope is that getting the junk out of my living space – as well as my digital life, my schedule, and my relationships – can help focus my mind and soul on my pursuit of Truth.

I’m so happy to have found a community of like-minded souls on this blog and I love hearing everyone’s stories. I know that wherever my path takes me, the principles discussed amongst this community will continue to help enrich 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: Zsolt

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 Zsolt, whose cultural upbringing has given him a unique perspective on hoarding and minimalism. Be sure to visit his blog to read more.

Zsolt writes:

Most of you people reading this have probably been lucky enough not to have experienced life in a socialist dictatorship. I was 6 years old when the political transitions happened in Hungary so I can’t say I have experienced it either. But the mindset that 40 years of socialism imposed upon society, didn’t evaporate from one day to another.

Under the socialist regime, the Hungarian standard of living was way below that of the American or Western European. Something had to be done to give people an illusion of prosperity in order to keep political stability.

One thing they did was they eradicated unemployment. Everybody had a job. Some kind of a job at least. A lot of these were jobs that had no purpose whatsoever other than making the statistics look better and keeping up the grand illusion.

The other thing they did was they generously overlooked people nicking things from work. Or in other words, they institutionalized corruption. Doctors got paid peanuts, so did hairdressers and waiters. But people would tip them, which would make up for the better half of their salary.

People who worked in factories took the products or tools home. If you worked in a paper factory, you’d take a bag of toilet paper home every day (whether you needed it or not) and trade it for car parts and tools with the guy who worked in a car factory or for eggs with the lady who worked at a farm. Many people run this to the extreme and opened their own shop in 1990 when the system collapsed to sell the stuff they accumulated from work.

I grew up in a family and a society of hoarders.

No big surprise, I became a hoarder myself. I’d keep things that I might use once every few years.

My rationale was that even though very rarely, I did use it, so I had to keep it. This way of thinking stem from my upbringing  - I can see that so clearly now.

A few years ago something shifted. I realized that if I only used something every other year, I didn’t really need it. And if I did, I could always get it when I needed it. I slowly started letting things go.

By the summer of 2013, I thought I had got rid of most of the stuff I didn’t need. I was wrong of course.

I was getting ready to go long term travelling in October. All I was planning to take was a carry-on bag, 10 kg of stuff. So I had to get rid of everything else.

I gave some of the stuff away and throw the really useless crap out. To my utmost surprise I still had a truckload that I thought I needed. I took the whole lot to my parents – they didn’t mind, they love stuff…

I’ve been travelling South America with the aforementioned 10 kg backpack for 3 months now and I’ve never felt so free in my life. This radical change has taught me that stuff takes up not only physical, but mental space as well. The less stuff you have the freer your mind feels. Not to mention the amazing level of mobility it affords you. I can pack up and be on the road in 10 minutes if need be.

Minimalism is freedom.

I’m not going home in the foreseeable future, but when I do I’ll go through the truckload of stuff I dumped at my parents’ house and get rid of everything I can. For good.

I’m done with being a hoarder.

{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: Sarah T.

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, Sarah T. tells us how she and her family dramatically downsized their home and streamlined their stuff. Surf on over to her blog to learn more.

Sarah writes:

One day I was as content as could be with all my stuff, and the next day I’d had it. We had moved from Florida with no basement, garage, or storage to Pennsylvania where our square footage was much more than records indicated. Since we bought the house sight-unseen, we really had no idea what we were up against. But while this 6 bedroom, 3 bathroom, 3 living room (no kidding!) house seemed huge at first, slowly but surely, we began to fill it with garage sale treasures. I had a hard time keeping the house clean, even before all the acquisitions, due to it’s sheer size. Later though, it was practically impossible.

I was done. I started a pile of items to get rid of in the basement bedroom (non-conforming, mind you- I didn’t count it as one of the 6). What began as a little pile in the corner eventually consumed an entire wall. It continued to grow and expand, eventually filled up most of the floor space and topped off at about 4 feet high. By the time the annual neighborhood garage sale rolled around, we knew we were moving to Iowa, and purged even more. Seeing all your junk lining the driveway is humbling. Fortunately, at that point, it never even crossed my mind that other people might show up shaking their heads in pity that all this came from one family. I just wanted to be rid of it. Between the sale, one full trip to the thrift store, and a pile of stuff on the side of the road for people to rummage through (which they do, I learned), we were rid of that roomful of useless stuff.

When we moved, we rented the same size truck we used from FL to PA. It was packed a lot tighter and we still left a few items on the curb that didn’t fit, but we did it. We continue to downsize and reevaluate stuff now. But one important thing I’ve learned is that the incoming stuff is just as important, if not more important, than the outgoing. That was our problem for a while. It was fun to purge, but still fun to shop (at garage sales, naturally), thus, we didn’t make much headway. It was an about face with our accumulation of new items that finally resulted in real progress. From my experience, that just comes with time. Just like learning to eat differently for better health, it’s a reprogramming of the brain.

Changing our relationship with stuff has been a fun and challenging, sometimes painful and discouraging process. We’re not die-hard minimialissimos. We have 4 kids and all their gear and still live in the suburbs. But this move was an intentional “downgrade” (by the world’s standard). All 1500 square feet of our home gets used. The full basement is wide open with plenty of room for the kids to run around and play during the cold winter months. Our second vehicle is my husband’s bike which he takes to work every day. We own things that accommodate our actual lifestyle- no more storing fancy dishes and tablecloths or trying to make a computer desk work for a laptop lifestyle. We do have a wide range of bikes in different sizes for our kids. We do keep the free plastic cups from restaurants and use them as our everyday tableware. We keep what we use and we use what we keep.

I blog at www.marchingtoourowndrummer.blogspot.com whenever I fancy. Not often. Just sometimes. I have a few posts on our downsizing, as well as the final push to pay off our mortgage.

{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: Belle

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 lovely contribution from Belle. Her recent marriage inspired her to declutter, and she details for us the progress she’s made in her quest for a simpler life.

Belle writes:

Photo by Belle

I wouldn’t be considered a minimalist by most people’s standards. I enjoy owning books, nail polish, and little knickknacks I pick up at thrift stores. I dislike traveling and have no desire to live out of a suitcase. But I do love to declutter, clean, and organize – and I always have.

It wasn’t until I recently got married that I got bitten by the minimalist bug. After moving in with my husband, I threw myself into organizing our apartment and making everything look just right. The problem was that although we had room for all our stuff, I wasn’t happy with the way I felt when I had to look for something. I often searched through decorative box after decorative box just to find a pair of scissors. That’s when I decided to declutter in earnest. I had a desire to live a simpler life with less stuff, so I could focus more on the things that really mattered – my relationship with God, my husband, and our future family.

Luckily, I already lived minimally in some ways. I had never worn a lot of makeup – I own 1 mascara, 1 bottle of foundation, 1 pressed powder, and 2 different colored eyeshadows. I also don’t own a hair straightener, curler, or blow dryer, and I never color my hair. It wasn’t until I started reading about minimalism that I discovered I was already a minimalist in these aspects. My only weakness is nail polish – but I limit myself to only owning 15-20 polishes at any given time.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I started purging and I’ve made a lot of progress. I was ruthless with my book collection, only keeping around 100 of my absolute favorites and some I have yet to read (I know it sounds like a lot, but for an avid reader like me it’s the bare minimum!). I went through my closet and got rid of everything I wasn’t comfortable wearing or knew I didn’t really need. I helped my husband pare down his ties and dress shirts, which had previously been packed tightly into his closet. I managed to let go of sentimental and valuable items that I had kept for so long, but finally realized I would never use. More than anything, this journey has taught me to live in the present, not the past (“but it was a gift!”) or the future (“I might need it someday”).

It feels great to be on track to a simpler life. I constantly have a pile of things to donate to Goodwill, and I must say, it feels great to go there to get rid of stuff rather than spend money. Although I love thrift shopping, I remind myself that it keeps me from having the lifestyle I really want. Blogs like missminimalist.com and theminimalists.com have also helped me get rid of more stuff. I love reading other people’s stories and I hope my own can inspire someone out there!

{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.}

Decluttering Update: Hello eBay, My Old Friend

Hello eBay, my old friend
I’ve come to list with you again…

Sometimes you reach a point in life when you have things all figured out—you’ve accomplished that elusive goal, you’ve designed that perfect lifestyle, you’ve tweaked and fine-tuned your way into the ideal routine.

And then what happens? Well, things change, of course. One of the tenets of Zen Buddhism is that life is never static—and that the desire for it to be so is cause for great suffering. Better to accept that change is the rule, and embrace the twists and turns that occur along the way.

I had once decluttered my way to minimalist nirvana. I’d whittled down my belongings to the essential. I had fewer than one hundred possessions. I had no permanent address and I lived out of a suitcase. My eBay account, once a hotbed of activity, stood dormant for years.

And then I had a baby.

Now, don’t get me wrong; having a child has been the most amazing experience of my life. However, it’s thrown me into the midst of a whole new level of stuff-management.

When I was pregnant, I didn’t shop or nest like many moms-to-be. In fact, I hardly bought anything, confidant that my little one could get by with a handful of outfits and toys. I didn’t even acquire a crib or car seat until I was nearly full term. I haven’t become much of a shopper since her arrival, either, and generally scramble to fill needs as they arise (oh, there’s six inches of snow–my daughter needs boots and mittens!).

But, this being the first grandchild on both sides of the family, my relatives have more than made up for my lack. So the last two years have found me back in decluttering mode, as Plumblossom rapidly outgrows her clothes and baby paraphernalia.

While the bulk of her castoffs go to charity, I’ve listed some of her nicer dress clothes on eBay. It’s actually been less time-consuming than expected, primarily because of eBay’s shipping label service. After the auction, all I have to do is put the article of clothing in a small padded envelope, weigh it on our kitchen scale, print off the label (paid via Paypal), and drop it into the drive-through mailbox at the post office. It’s a far cry from my eBay heyday a decade ago, when I’d wait for checks in the mail, take them to the bank, make my own labels, and wait in line at the post office (!).

So I’m back in the trenches with y’all, and have integrated a new decluttering routine into my minimalist life. I have three bags in the guest room closet: one for clothes donations, one for books and toys donations, and one for eBay sales (unfortunately, none of our friends or family have had baby girls recently, leaving a lack of hand-me-down recipients). I like to keep Plumblossom’s closet and play area as clutter-free as possible, so anything that’s outgrown or no longer useful goes straight into the bags. Then every few months, I make my donations and list on eBay. And Plumblossom grows, and the cycle goes on…

(For those wondering why I’m not saving stuff for a future sibling, see my Huffington Post article.)

The point of this post? That when it comes to decluttering, sometimes there isn’t an end point—and that’s okay. Sometimes, no matter how perfectly you’ve pared down your possessions, life circumstances might throw some extra stuff your way. But as long as you keep your minimalist mindset, and deal with clutter as soon as it becomes clutter, you’ll continue on your merry minimalist path.

In fact, it’s good to hone those decluttering muscles once in a while. When it comes to my own stuff, having a child has made me even more minimalist (perhaps to compensate, both mentally and physically, for her things?). I’ve acquired practically nothing for myself since her birth, and finally let go of the box of “nice” office clothes I’d stored while overseas (and lamented in Storage is Not a Solution). I have a renewed enthusiasm for becoming as paperless as possible–more on that in a future post. Perhaps (to paraphrase Nietzsche) the clutter that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. ;-)

So has life ever thrown you a clutter curveball? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the Comments!

[Note: Am I blogging again? Sort of. I'll try to post about once a month for now, and slowly ease my way back...]

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

Real Life Minimalists: John

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

This week, we hear from John. He tells us how reducing his possessions has given him a new mental freedom, and enabled him to focus on the important things in life. Check out his blog to learn more.

John writes:

Greetings Minimalists! My name is John and part of what I write about over at practicalcivilization.com includes minimalism and the avoidance of over-consumption. Recently, I got my belongings below the famed 300 number. I have been living with less than 300 items for about a month now and it feels good! I’d like to share what I have found.

Currently, I’m single and live in a one bedroom apartment. I thought, “What better time to get rid of all the things I don’t need and really focus on what matters in life.” So far, I have realized that living with less is beneficial for a few reasons.

Perhaps the biggest joy of living with less has been the mental space that has been freed up. I no longer have to look at certain items that were not getting any use and were simply collecting dust/taking up space in my small apartment. Gone are the days of rummaging through my closet to find a certain shirt or pair of pants because now all my favorites are clearly at eye level. I don’t have to think about where a particular tool may be because I know right where I have them organized. My kitchen takes a lot less time to organize and clean up due to a fewer amount of dishes/utensils.

This mental freedom is a treasure to behold.

I’ve discovered that by evaluating what “things” I truly use on a daily/weekly basis, this mindset has spilled over into other aspects of my life. I’ve begun to further look at my finances, how many e-mail subscriptions I needed to unsubscribe from, and my social network use. Organization and de-cluttering in these areas is sensible because it allows me to be less distracted by trivial matters and focus on my work, writing, and relationships with family and friends.

Lastly, I’ve come to realize that we live in a world of abundance and uber-consumption. That is, those of us that have the opportunity of reading this article on some sort of computer or mobile device. In other words, we don’t have trouble meeting our basic needs to survive and live a happy life. All the fluff and absurdities of a consumer society have been force-fed down our throats and we can either choose to let the pattern of consumption rule our lives or forge a path of our own. A much simpler, happier path.

{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: Karen

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 Karen, who describes herself as the “not-quite-there” minimalist. Visit her blog, and learn more about her gentle evolution towards simplicity.

Karen writes:

Karen

When I was 16 I remember looking around my bedroom and seeing all the typical teenage flotsam and jetsam on the floor and the crammed-full dresser and suddenly realizing I didn’t want to live like this. I wanted clear spaces and less of everything. So I hitched up my hip-hugger jeans and got to work getting rid of clothes, stuffed animals, knick knacks and books…keeping only what I really liked and wore. It was liberating.

And for years afterwards I lived simply. It was easy. I was young, single and had little disposable income. I made long-distance moves (from New York state to Chicago to San Francisco) and limited myself to a few suitcases and boxes for each move.

When I got married at age 25, my husband and I continued to live simply. We lived in a studio apartment, cooked meals from the “More with Less” cookbook and managed without a car. Then we moved to a one-bedroom apartment, later bought a two-bedroom condo and finally bought the small three-bedroom house we have lived in for over two decades.

Every move bought a little more space. Space to fill. Though we weren’t spendthrifts, what with the birth of our two daughters, the influx of inherited items and a bit of collecting on my part, the house got fuller. And while the house was usually tidy, the closets and cupboards were packed. Storage boxes started appearing under the beds. Too many times I wondered, “Now, where did I put that??”

I desperately wanted to regain the sense of order I had in my younger years and have fewer things to take care of.

That’s when I found a number of blogs and books on minimalism. Inspired, I knew I wanted to downsize my possessions, our possessions, but it was more difficult than it had been at age 16…I was now contending with a lot more stuff and three other people in the house who weren’t as keen on getting rid of their belongings! And here’s my confession: I love old things. Old sterling silver, old photos, old textiles, old jewelry. I collect them and they give me pleasure, but I realized that I had more than I could appreciate, more than I could use.

So I took a few baby steps:

  • I got everyone in the family on board with getting rid of our unused belongings and now we regularly take stuff to a charity. I’ll put a bag or two in the family room and tell everyone I’m going to drop it off at Goodwill that weekend and to put their stuff in it before then. And they do!
  • I got rid of most of the clothes I no longer wore. All the stuff that didn’t fit, was out of style, wasn’t flattering, etc. (There are a few sentimental pieces I can’t let go of yet.)
  • I decided to part with some of my antiques and inherited items and opened up an Etsy store to sell them. As things have sold, it’s gotten easier to sell more. It’s loosened my grip.
  • I suggested to my extended family members that the adults stop exchanging Christmas gifts. This choice that has made the holidays less stressful and means less stuff in the house.
  • I’m trying to be very intentional about what I buy. No more impulse buying. I ask myself lots of questions before any purchase. I wait. I think about it.
  • I’m trying to follow the “one-in, one-out” principle. I’m not always successful, but I try.

Postscript: Our house is getting closer to how we want it. Having less stuff does make life easier! Alas, I’ve discovered the “downside” to my store is that I enjoy it so much I’ve turned it into a little business and I now go to estate sales to buy more things for it! It’s a fun activity to do with girlfriends and I make a little money, but I’m hard pressed to find places to house my store inventory. (Still figuring out this knot.) I don’t want to undo the work we’ve done in the house!

So I think of myself as the “not-quite-there” minimalist. A minimalist with training wheels. I keep myself motivated by continuing to read blogs on minimalism and I want to extend my thanks to all of you who have shared your 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 Update: Fawn

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

This week we have an update from Fawn, who was first featured as a Real Life Minimalist in September 2010. Her minimalist lifestyle, as a single mom of four, is truly inspirational—please visit her blog to learn more!

Fawn writes:

I have had minimalist leanings since I was a child. I used to make up games where I had to leave my home and stuff and pack only what I could take on my (imaginary) horse for a month on the range. At the age of 11, I was designing living spaces to fit in a horse trailer. But, like so many, I got distracted by pretty, shiny things in the media and the idea that a woman needed different styled shoes for different outfits. Then I got married and people gave us tons of stuff to start out our new life. Except our new life was very transitory. My husband was a journalist and as he advanced his career and traded up newspapers, we moved from small town to bigger town from weeklies to dailies. He would get a new job, and it was my task to pack up the home and move it to the new place. We moved nine times in three years. The silver chaffing dish moved with us the first time, but by the end of those three years, I had given away everything that was not essential to our lives.

Fast forward a couple decades (and several more moves) and I found myself at the age of forty living in a two-bedroom apartment with my four children, ages 16 years, 5, 4 and 1 years. We each had a week’s worth of clothing, and shared a couch and a few pots and pans. The sixteen year old had all his stuff in a room to himself and me and the little ones slept on a futon on the floor. I had left all our stuff on the farm when we moved away. It was so freeing!

I decided to not fill up our new life with clutter and began to curate heavily what I allowed into our home. I started to count our possessions each year, with the goal of only having 100 or fewer personal possessions. This year, my personal count is 85 things. There are other objects that I share with the kids. You can read about our happy minimalist life at www.singlemomenough.wordpress.com.

Fawn’s home

{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: Denise

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 share this story from Denise. She and her daughter Aly (who was featured as a Real Life Minimalist last year) blog about their challenges and discoveries at minimalismissimple.com.

Denise writes:

Just over a year ago my daughter, Aly, introduced me to minimalism. Immediately I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. As I continue to make my way down the minimalist path now, I find myself thinking that I wish that I had found this path 30 years ago and how drastically different my life would have been.  Back then I found myself tangled up in the typical American dream – good job, family, big house, new cars, and so on.

At 18 I began working for an oil company and found myself quickly making my way up the ladder to bigger and better positions.  With the increase in income, I decided my old Mercury Comet wasn’t suited to my new position and went out and bought my very first new car – a Mercury Capri. I quickly accrued all of this debt and I hadn’t even moved out of my mother’s house yet.

By the age of 35 I had married the love of my life, had two beautiful daughters, and found myself wanting the luxuries that came with having the American dream, including a new house, new car, higher paying job, etc. And we got it, plus the expenses that came with it.

Now, at the age of 52, I have experienced a wealth of debt and big splurge purchases, including our oversized house we now live in. All is okay though, but we are not in the debt free position I imagined we would be at this time in our lives.  My husband and I now run our own home based business and found that country living was ideal for us. Our business is doing well and we have built a warehouse on the land we live for our inventory, which has drastically reduced our bills each month, and we continue to make small changes daily towards our end goal.

Since embracing minimalism alongside my daughter I have found a new lease on life. I have significantly reduced the amount of possessions we have, and I love the benefits I have found by embracing my new minimalist lifestyle, including more money in our pockets and time to spend with my daughters and husband. The biggest benefit I found? I’ve lost weight and am overall HAPPIER! Can you imagine my surprise when I realized that not only is my journey helping me to downsize and have more time, it’s also helping me to be healthier and more fit than I have ever been in my life – all because I’m looking at everything that I bring into my house, including food, in a different light.

Overall, I’m grateful for all of my past experiences and for my family who stood beside me during the ups and downs, but now I am excited to see where my new minimalist life takes us. We have goals to have our property paid in full within the next 5 years, spend more time with one another than working, and continue to reduce our consumption so we CAN fully live the minimalist life we dream of (maybe even in a tiny house). We’ll just have to wait and see where our journey takes us!

{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.}