Real Life Minimalists: Becca

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 Becca. She’s one year into her minimalist journey, and shares with us her challenges and triumphs along the way—as well as the joy and peace a simpler lifestyle has brought her.

Becca writes:

I began my journey to minimalism/simple living in March of 2014. My family and I had a very rough year with two significant deaths that radically changed my perspective on, well, everything as they often do. I knew my life was heading in a completely different direction, but was ready for it all the same, although I truly didn’t know how or where to begin. After discovering the tiny house movement, which lead to many other facets of simplified living including minimalism, I decided to begin the process. For some reason, I really felt inside that this is was what I was supposed to do. My plan was to get my finances in order, purge my possessions, quit my job, sell my house, then move back to my hometown to be closer to family.

In regards to the finances, I attended a free budgeting course at a local credit union which was very helpful. It basically followed the principles of the Dave Ramsey method. I had credit card debt and this allowed me to pay it off fairly quickly. I also eliminated anything I could that was not a necessity like cable TV and also buying anything that was not a necessity. If I needed clothing, it came from Goodwill and if I needed a book or movie, it came from my local library. I was able to save more money then I could have imagined in doing this.

As for purging, I donated most everything. For most things, I didn’t have a problem in letting go. I would forget them as soon as I dropped them off it seemed, but for others it was a bit harder. I would tell myself that maybe, just maybe I could hold onto it and see if it could be used at some point even though I knew that in reality it wasn’t so. Part of this process was changing my thoughts and old beliefs about possessions and how they affected me or made me feel. In the long run I figured out that having all these possessions did not and still do not bring me satisfaction. It can only come from within myself. It is based on the individual. No one can tell you what to keep and what to let go of. Only you can decide that.

Quitting my job was a bit harder. I knew that it had to be done, but it did not ease the stress or anxiety of it. I had been there for seven years and thought that I would remain there indefinitely. Everyone hated to see me go and were quite shocked when I made the announcement that I was leaving, but by that point I had made up my mind and my heart. There was no going back. My last day was only nine short weeks ago, but feels much longer. Do I miss it? Some of the people that I had gotten close to over the years, yes, but surprisingly not much else I have to say. My job took up most of my time during the week. The hours were mostly long and the days so often hectic. Then there was the commute which always ended with sitting in traffic for way too long. I would come home in the evening and be utterly exhausted, not wanting any contact with the outside world. Spending too much time sitting in a fog on the couch surfing the internet to pass the time until I went to sleep, got up, and did the whole routine all over again. Two days off just really was not enough for me to recharge. I had made the job my main focus which is not surprising. I had to pay my bills and that was that. But in doing that, I had lost sight of what truly makes me tick. Who was I? Where was I going? What were my likes or dislikes? I could not say for sure because I honestly did not know.

The house I am now selling is my first house. At 950 sq feet, it is not large by America’s standards, but too large for me I realized. I did not use the extra bedroom, bathroom, or dining room which caused me to rethink how much space I really needed to be comfortable. Now that the house was basically cleaned out I could see that it wasn’t as much as I origionally thought. I spent the last two years fixing it up unaware at the time that I was just to turn around and sell it, but I’m glad that I did. It was certainly a learning experience as I did most of the work myself, Google becoming my closest friend. I will miss the house in some ways, but not the maintenance and the worry it almost always seemed to cause me. I’m not saying that owning a home is a bad thing, I would encourage anyone that desires that to feel free to make it happen. For myself and this period in my life though, I desire simple. I felt that a mortgage made me feel trapped and I didn’t want that feeling any longer. I currently live with my mom in my hometown. She lives upstairs and I live downstairs. Now some people may be thinking this is actually a step backwards for an almost 35 year woman, but for me not so much. I’ve lived with my mom for a large portion of my life when I think about it, so it doesn’t seem like an odd thing to me. We get along wonderfully and she does her thing and I do mine. Plus, we have each other to lean on if needed which was much more difficult when I was living two hours away. Will I stay here forever? Probably not. I will eventually move on, but for now I’m happy here. I have what I need and nothing more.

I can tell you now from experience how much lighter, focused, more peaceful, happier, and free I feel with less. I am eating better, sleeping better, and taking care of myself better. Taking some time off from working has also helped. I can’t imagine going back to old ways and habits. Even though I have gotten rid of a large amount of stuff and moved to a smaller space, I am still finding things to get rid of. The best part is, realizing that I really don’t need to own that much or have a huge space to maintain joy in my life. Connecting with family and friends and creating experiences that lead to great memories is what truly counts. This is what I strive for in the new year and beyond. There were some people who were not as receptive as I would have hoped during this process, but I knew this was a probability. At the end of the day, remaining true to myself is the greatest act of self love I could have ever committed. This new life does not and will not fit everyone, but suits me just fine.

So, now after all this do I know where I am or where I’m going? Well, not exactly, but I can say that each day I feel like I’m getting a bit closer. It’s wonderful to have found not only the courage, but also opportunity to find out.

{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: Betsy

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 Betsy, who tells us how her travels inspired her minimalist journey. Please visit her blog to read more about her experiences.

Betsy writes:

Betsy

Betsy

Hello friends. My name is Betsy Ramser Jaime and I blog weekly at www.betsyramser.com. In January 2013, I embarked on an 11 month 11 country mission trip around the world. During that year I lived out of a Osprey Ariel 75 backpack and a Patagonia day back. A few years before this trip I had been a business & fashion student living in NYC so everything that I was doing was a complete departure from what I was accustomed to. A huge step outside my comfort zone.

Although difficult at first (and strenuous on my petite 108 pound frame) I came to enjoy the simplicity of the backpacker lifestyle. I found a joy in really appreciating the items I owned but was no longer so attached to my clothes and “stuff” that I couldn’t let go of things.

Prior to 2013, I always really feared losing my luggage. The thought of being without my beloved clothes, shoes, and accessories was horrifying to me. However, once I started living out of a backpack, I came to realize that I valued the experiences so much more than any single possession that I owned.

I wanted the travels and adventure more than anything I had left at home. I remember sitting outside our home in Uganda and thinking that I couldn’t even remember most of what I had left behind.

During my year of travels I actually met and fell in love with the man who is now my husband. We both returned to the U.S. in December 2013 and came to a mutual decision that we wanted to downsize our lifestyles. Although we were both in our mid twenties and didn’t own too much between us, we still wanted to start our marriage living with less.

Through our experiences around the world, we had both adopted a mindset and philosophy of minimalism and simplicity. The next step for us was to replicate that philosophy in each tangible area of our life.

A second, more practical reason for the changes was that my husband had decided to go back to school. We didn’t want to take out student loans to pay for his schooling and came to the decision that we preferred to live simplistically and frugally and put the money that we would save towards paying his tuition each semester.

We went through each room of our home and gathered bag after bag of items for Goodwill. Although it might seem silly, there was so much freedom from decluttering and letting go of our possessions.

During the decluttering process, we let go of things that had not been used in at least a year. We took it one room at a time: wardrobe, closets, kitchen, bedroom, office, etc.

We continuously go around the house and closets each month and find a new bag of things to give away. We are constantly re-evaluating and letting go of more.

While I feel as though I have what I need, I no longer need to spend so much of my free time shopping. In fact, I decided to stop shopping for an entire year from September 2014 until September 2015. So far, I am so happy with each of the changes we’ve made.

Overall, since making these alterations to our lifestyle we have such a sense of peace and joy in our lives. We still have so much to figure out but we don’t find our happiness in comparing ourselves or our lifestyle to those around us but by staying true to ourselves.

{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: Melissa

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 meet Melissa, who tells us how her family’s new home inspired them to embrace a minimalist lifestyle.

 

Melissa & family

Melissa & family

Melissa writes:

My husband and I began our minimalist journey last year when we bought our first house. When we walked into the solid log home, we fell in love. It was staged minimally for showing, and we adored how the gorgeous wood walls and architecture took center stage. We knew that filling it with all of our belongings would destroy that beauty.

In the month before we moved in, we took load after load of items to Goodwill. We realized that once we got rid of the stuff, we no longer needed storage furniture for it. We gave away dressers, shelving units, storage containers, and hutches. Our belongings were at least a thousand pounds lighter on move-in day.

Our new house includes a 1600 square foot garage. Yes, larger than many houses! When friends visit, they exclaim over the empty space and suggest things we could buy to fill it. But we see potential in the space, not in the items that we could store in it. It is a space where my husband can spread out his woodworking tools during a project. It can become a playground when our daughter wants to run, dance, and cartwheel during cold or rainy weather. We can do messy crafts, exercise, and play party games. We want to use that space to do things rather than to own things.

Six months after our move, we are as in-love with our new home as ever, and we owe much of that to our commitment to minimalism. We stick to a rule of “one item in, one item out,” and we often tip the scale drastically towards “out.” We have a donation box in the house that we add to daily. Other than the dresser that my husband and I share and a dresser for our daughter, we stick to the storage that the house provides: closets and cabinets, many of which have empty space. We have not added a single shelf, and there is nothing under the beds. After experimenting with a season of Project 333, I now dress full-time with a capsule wardrobe, which has been a liberating experience.

More than a reduction in belongings, discovering minimalism has launched a monumental change in our lifestyle. We no longer shop mindlessly, we don’t browse, and we don’t expose ourselves to advertising. We allow our own experiences tell us what we need in our lives instead of outside forces telling us what we should want. We have formed the habit of routinely questioning an item’s usefulness in our lives, and getting rid of it if it doesn’t serve us. When we are able to eliminate the unnecessary, we feel freer, lighter, and healthier, as if our lives are trees and we have pruned off the dead branches. Too much stuff is a burden we don’t ever want to bear again!

{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: Lori

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 inspirational story from Lori. She and her husband retired early, downsized their possessions to two carry-on bags, and are pursuing their dream of long-term travel. I for one look forward to following their adventures on their blog!

Lori writes:

Lori

Lori

Upon asking my mom about a picture of a four-year-old me on Christmas morning long ago, she said, “This was a Christmas we spent at your grandparents’ house in New Jersey. Your father was stationed overseas at the time and I didn’t want to spend the holidays alone. I remember that you walked downstairs on Christmas morning and saw so many glittering, wrapped presents piled high just for you. You were so overwhelmed that you chose only one gift to open, a simple child-sized rocking chair. We had a hard time convincing you to open anything else but you did, to make us happy. That year, surrounded by so many toys, puzzles, dolls, games, and books, you know what your most treasured gift was? That rocking chair.”

This story was like a light bulb moment for me because I made the connection that maybe I’ve been a minimalist all along. Other clues as I pondered my past behaviors were that I had a deep fascination with The Little House on the Prairie series of books as a young reader. I remember being so comforted by Laura Ingalls’ descriptions of her simple log house in the Big Woods, her cozy sleeping loft that she shared with her sister, and her simple corn husk rag doll that her Ma made for her.

Later, as a young rookie teacher, I lost some of my minimalist tendencies. I started saving stacks and stacks of worksheets, file folders, supplies, craft materials, children’s books, and classroom decor “just in case” I could use them someday. Multiply that by 27 years of teaching, and you can guess that I had a lot of unnecessary and unused materials dragging me down, just collecting dust in boxes on the shelves in my classroom. I forgot what I even had in them.

Once I got married and started a family, the stuff just kept accumulating. Wedding gifts to sort and store, first home furnishings and decor to manage and keep organized, then a baby boy with all the many things needed to nurture him.

It took a big move overseas to Japan, to reawaken my minimalist nature. My husband and I received teaching assignments in Tokyo and as you know, housing there is a minimalist’s dream. Really tiny and efficient spaces force you to reevaluate what you really need. I remember that we could only take a few items with us to start our life in Japan, but the rest of our household goods would arrive a few months later. We didn’t realize how much our stuff had been weighing us down until we were forced to live without it temporarily. Once the rest of our shipment arrived, we looked at each other as we unpacked box after box. We often asked ourselves, “Why did I even think I would need this?” Instead of using only a few plates, bowls, glasses, and utensils, we now had cabinets overflowing with them. I once again felt heavy and burdened.

Our overseas teaching experience afforded us the opportunity to travel to many places. As we observed family after family living happily with so much less in countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, the minimalist ember began to burn brightly again.

When our son moved away to college, we faced our empty nest with a new resolve. Seeing Chase’s near-empty bedroom prompted us to do some major purging of our own. We started in very small steps, but you know what? A funny thing happens when you start clearing the clutter. It becomes strangely addictive. The more we cleared away, the lighter we felt. So, we kept going to the point that one day we jokingly challenged each other to consider letting it ALL go. Every. Single. Thing.

It took over a year of soul-searching, deep discussions, planning, purging, and more than a few sleepless nights before we were able to finally make the leap. We realized that waiting for just the “right” time would never come. So, this past June, after selling or donating all of our possessions, we left our very secure teaching jobs well before retirement age and stepped into a future of full time travel. We now carry with us only what can fit in two carry-on sized bags. The world is literally at our feet and the excitement we feel each day is akin to that of falling in love.

Our first stop on our early retirement journey is Chiang Mai, Thailand. We are here for a year and have switched roles from teachers to students as we are learning to speak Thai. It is a humbling and gratifying experience to be on the other side of the desk at this point in our lives. People we meet ask us where we’ll go next. Our answer? Everywhere! Travel is our true passion and we plan to keep going as much as we can, as far as we can. Want to follow along on our adventure? Be sure to check out our blog at http://freetirement.weebly.com.

Lori, age 4

Lori, age 4

{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: Live, Laugh, Clean

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, Live, Laugh, Clean provides a wonderful account of how she keeps her household streamlined and well-managed. Very inspirational!

Live, Laugh, Clean writes:

My journey to a minimalist lifestyle comes from simply wanting to be organized. I wanted my finances, house, family and my life to be organized and well-managed. With a frugal background that came from my school-teaching parents I saw the benefits from learning to manage your resources well. We were blessed to travel extensively not because my parents made a lot of money but because they planned well with what they earned. Money and material things come into our lives all the time and the key is to really stop and think how best to use them both to enhance and sustain your life.

Minimalism is an ongoing process for me as I use it in each area of my life. Being married and raising two kids, I wanted to provide the appropriate accoutrements for family life. This means that I don’t want to make my kids live in a yurt or carry all my possessions in a tiny backpack. But I knew there was a way to consume responsibly and I focused my efforts on three guidelines: Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose.

My home is now easy to keep organized because we don’t have a lot of unused junk lying around. The closets are frequently used to store items out of sight but still in reach for daily or weekly use. The kitchen cabinets close properly because they only hold the dishes we use. There aren’t any cabinets filled with hundreds of unused plastic containers or unused kitchen appliances. The pantry is monitored and organized because I can save a lot time and money by cooking. Keeping your pantry and refrigerator organized also saves on food waste.

My kids’ rooms stay neat and organized (most of the time) because I engage them in the process. Before each Christmas and birthday I encourage them to go through their toys and books and decide what is no longer age-appropriate or of interest to them. I am always vocal about how if something is no longer in use, we can decide how best to let it go. Should it be sold or donated? Is it broken or no longer usable and if so, can we recycle it? This has taught my kids that each stage of life will require different needs and they can learn how to actively keep track of what’s in our home.

Our clothing closets and dressers only hold clothing that fits properly and is used on a regular basis in that season. (Except for my husband’s….more on that later.) I don’t buy tons of outfits for the kids because I know their bodies are growing along with their tastes. Each season we check to see what still fits and what needs replacing so that when we go shopping we are doing it mindfully and only purchase what is needed.

I use files to keep home and financial records in order. At the end of each year and in preparation for tax season I review the receipts and important papers (medical bills, credit card bills, bank statements etc) and what isn’t used for taxes is either archived or shredded. This is not a dreaded task because I file the papers throughout the year by sorting any incoming mail daily and tossing junk mail in the recycle immediately. I only get the Sunday paper and read it by Tuesday before it goes in the recycle. All the other news I can get online throughout the week. I do all bill-paying online to save on stamps and paperwork. I keep home files for appliance records and other household needs.

You can start with one area of your home that you’d like to improve and work your way through it. I’ve found choosing one area per season is a great way to avoid becoming over-whelmed. At the end of one year, you’ll be amazed at how much cleaner and more organized your life will become. Stay alert to what comes into your home and avoid the unnecessary (i.e. too many magazine subscriptions, catalogs or stuffed Santa dolls). Be honest with yourself while shopping by asking “Do we really need this item?”

These are ways I keep control of our spending and clutter. The best part is I save more of our income by being mindful of what we already have and what we consume and I don’t have to go without indoor plumbing! Yes, sometimes it’s a struggle to get family members to agree to the process. My husband has been stubbornly attached to old business clothes and other items in the garage that no longer seem useful. And that’s OK. I’ve found the each person can come to the knowledge of his or her version of minimalism when the time is right for them. Sometimes that happens with a move, job change or other life-changing event. Go at your own pace and set an example for your family members and you may find they start de-cluttering alongside you before long.  Good luck on your own journey!

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

Real Life Minimalists: Gene

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, Gene shares the details of his minimalist journey with us—and a wonderful photo that radiates the joy and freedom of a simplified life!

Gene writes:

Gene

Gene

Like so many people I had accumulated plenty of stuff. Ok, to be fair much of it was junk. As George Carlin is famous for pointing out, when it’s yours its “stuff” but when it is somebody else’s its “junk”. As in “Move your ‘junk’, I need a place for my ‘stuff’”. But I eventually realized that much of my “stuff” was in fact just “junk”.

Well, shortly after my divorce I discovered a TV show called “Hoarders”. My ex had taken most of her “junk” and so any mess that remained was entirely mine. The pattern was always the same, I would watch a half hour of the show and then hit pause and spend the next 90 minutes cleaning and sorting and purging. Anything I could do to distance my home from the one I just saw on TV made me feel just a bit better. Now in all fairness I was never a ‘hoarder’ but I do now recognize that I gained a certain amount of ‘comfort’ from having “stuff”…err I mean “junk”. My floors were mostly visible and if you came into my place with a shovel you wouldn’t discover any dead cats or raccoons. But admittedly my place was a bit cluttered. And so too did my life also feel a bit cluttered and encumbered.

I was always thrifty but I sometimes mistook buying a ‘bargain’ as the less expensive option even when really buying nothing at all would have saved me even more money. For example, after I had started down my minimalist path I was dragged at midnight on Thanksgiving to Best Buy. I needed nothing but when I saw a $7 panini maker I knew I had to have it. The little voice on my shoulder that was reminding me of my commitment to simplicity was beaten down by the old voice that couldn’t turn down a bargain. Well long story short – I don’t think I made more then 4 panini sandwiches with the darned thing before I decided it needed to go with the rest of the “stuff” to Goodwill.

I live in a major city where I can get away without having a car which further simplifies my life. Walking, biking, public transit, ZipCar and Uber meet most of my transportation needs.

I have pared down my belongings donating or throwing away things that no longer added any value to my life.

Books that wont be read again go to the library donation bin or to friends. I had once viewed overflowing book cases as a sort of intellectual trophy case to be displayed. No more.

All my many hundreds of CDs and DVDs have been put into sleeve binders. This act alone generated several garbage bags full of cases and created a surprising amount of space in my living room. In addition all my CDs have been ripped to MP3 and have also been uploaded to iTunes Match.

I have pared down my wardrobe as well. Clothes that I don’t ever wear I take on vacation. Why? Well I wear them one last time and then throw them away. No dirty laundry to bring back home with me. Although my friends have inquired why I tend to wear tacky or torn shirts in the photos from Disney World that I post on Facebook.

Now when I buy something I always ask myself if I need it.

I do allow myself a little retail therapy but I try to keep it to stuff that is small and functional. For example – I just the other day read an article that mentioned what the author described as the “worlds best mechanical pencil”. I found it online and bought it. OK, over $30 for a pencil might sound silly. But the thing really is a joy to write with and I wont be tripping over it.

And it’s not just stuff. I have tried to simplify other areas of my life as well. Fewer distractions so I can work towards focusing on those things that really do matter in my life. And the money that I save from buying stuff can go towards having experiences. And barring early onset of dementia those memories will far outlast my “stuff”.

I can say there are many purchases in my life that I regret. But there is not a single vacation or beer with friends that I would trade the memory of for any sort of refund.

{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: Abbie

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, Abbie shares an honest, thought-provoking perspective on the psychological aspects behind her decluttering. I’m sure many of us can relate to the issues of control and finding balance.

Abbie writes:

My grandparents saved because of their experiences with economic struggle. My parents saved because they were taught not to waste anything – one could use that or need it in the future, best to keep it until then. I saved because if you get rid of that, someone’s feelings will be hurt.

You know those boxes you have? The ones you are going to go through, when you have enough time? Everytime I moved, they moved and brought their friends.

Control issues do not stop once one is no longer a toddler. Control is one of the most important things we all deal with every day; control of ourselves, our actions, our environment. I lost control when I took the winter lay-off from work. I lost control when my partner lost control of their emotions. I lost control when I didn’t have the money to get into town from where we live. I lost control when the anhedonia took over.

“Wouldn’t it be easier if the cat was dead?”

“Wouldn’t it be easier if my partner died?”

“Wouldn’t it be easier if I had no family or friends to complicate my life?”

“Wouldn’t it be easier if I were dead?”

Maybe. But not really.

“Wouldn’t it be easier to not have so many thoughts swirling around my head?”

Yes.

What do you like about walking into hotel rooms? Why do you feel drawn to them? Sure, they appear clean and your hands did not need to do it. But it’s more than that. Your *stuff* isn’t there. Not physically. Not emotionally.

This was my starting point. I refused to reach my next milestone birthday without trying to let go of at least some of my physical clutter. I’ve been working on my emotional clutter since my early 20s. It was time to work on the physical; to peel away that which covers to find that which matters.

In the last three years, we have had many changes in our lives. We moved from 165m2 with a single car garage, in a town, to 48m2 with a small shed, 45 minutes from the city. We went from not too much stuff to quite a full house – and it wasn’t just the things.

Living as the partner of someone with PTSD is not necessarily easy. They need a lot of space to spread out their thoughts so they can rifle through them and try to make the raging torrent of emotion make sense. Because of the lack of emotional control and stability, their physical environment suffers too. The depression and anxiety tell them so many lies that they start to believe these lies. My partner “stacks things big,” then feels overwhelmed by being surrounded by them and, after a short while, gives up.

I started to feel like I was drowning in the emotions and physical possessions in our house. Thank goodness I’ve been through the counselling I have so when I recognized my own distress, I understood that I can only control my own belongings and my own actions. That is when the purge started. I was still trying to “manage” my partner’s emotions and responses but that is a tale for another time.

Clothes that may fit in at a nebulous future date? Donated.
Books that will “someday” get read? Traded for credit.
Owning 7 sets of sheets for one bed and 3 sets of blankets? Extras to the Humane Society.
Fabric, wool, and notions, bought on spec, in case I someday care about sewing or knitting? To the charity store.
Extra chairs? Burned.
Too many bookcases? Found new homes.

As I took back control of myself and my own space, it became easier to let go of trying to shore up my partner’s emotions. My partner took to purging belongings on good days so that when the bad days come back around, there were less physical things that felt like suffocation. We worked together to let go of those “ideal self” pictures with all the hobbies and projects. I do not buy on speculation and my partner and I work together to limit the projects we bring into our lives.

It is an ongoing process. I have, in some ways, swung too far. On bad days, I sometimes try to get rid of everything. This is where living in partnership comes in handy. My partner talks me down, just like I do for them on their bad days.

I’m still working on finding balance.

{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: Samantha

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 Samantha, who explains how selling their home has enabled her and her husband to live more intentionally and pursue their dreams. Please visit her blog to read more of her writing.

Samantha writes:

Samantha

Samantha

It didn’t take me long after buying our house to see how our materialism was eating away at our priorities.

Our spare time, energy and money were spent paying for, maintaining, cleaning and making plans for an edifice to live in. It seemed unnecessary and wasteful. And I didn’t like what it was doing to my marriage or to my soul.

My husband and I had dreamt of buying our first house. And while many suffered during the housing crisis, as first-time homebuyers, we benefited from it. We bought our house at a good price and a great interest rate. We saw lots of room for improvement and imagined the fat check we’d get someday when we’d sell our house in an improved market.

But I soon felt restless about owning this home. This house was a reflection of the life I was living. And I didn’t like the look of it.

I was pursuing the American Dream unintentionally. I was going to school for public relations. And a year after buying our home, I landed a good first job in marketing. I was succeeding in every possible way. At least that’s the way it looked. But that’s not how it felt.

I wasn’t grateful for the new job I had. I wasn’t grateful for the beautiful character home I lived in. I was becoming very restless with the way I was living my life and I knew I needed to make a change.

And I did change.

I left my job and pursued my dream of being a writer.

I started getting rid of all of my stuff. Slowly, but steadily. I didn’t know it yet, and I certainly had no goal of becoming one, but I was turning into a minimalist. Not to follow some trend or save money or anything like that. It just seemed a natural response to what was going on in my heart and my mind. I was weeding out the stuff in my life I felt was holding me back from living the life I wanted.

And yet there was this house. My husband and I no longer wanted to own a home. It wasn’t worth it to us. It was more expensive to maintain a home than we’d imagined. On top of that, our priorities had changed over the three years we owned the home and we no longer desired the space or autonomy owning a home brought.

Instead of this home being a haven of peace and a sanctuary for us, it was a constant reminder of how much time, money and energy we’d spent maintaining and cleaning it.

And we wanted out.

We breathed new life into our dream of moving across the country just to try living somewhere different. It’s something we’d always wanted to do. Finding out some family and friends were moving out of state was the catalyst for us pursuing our dream. So we put our house up for sale.

We sold our home this summer. We’re moving out of state in two months. And we have no plans of buying a home again.

Selling our home and moving out of state are two of the ways we are choosing to live life more intentionally, which requires us to minimize the stuff in our lives that doesn’t matter so much.

Today, we’re weeding out that which holds us back from pursuing what matters most to us. That means living with less stuff. That means choosing more risks and less security. It means making choices intentionally and not operating out of habit.

And it doesn’t feel like I’m giving up anything at all. It feels like I’m gaining a whole lot more. And I am.

{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: Daniel, The Minimalist Kanaka

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 Daniel, The Minimalist Kanaka, who tells us how his Hawaiian heritage inspired his new, pared-down lifestyle. Please visit his blog to read more of his thoughts.

Daniel writes:

Daniel

Daniel

Aloha, Iʻm Daniel. I was born and raised in beautiful Hawaii and currently reside there. I canʻt say exactly when I discovered minimalism. The Hawaii lifestyle is naturally a minimalist culture. I remember when my brothers and I were young, our favorite toys were cardboard boxes. People would bring my family toys, but my parents ended up passing it to our cousins because we’d rather play with our cardboard boxes. Yes, we were and still are easily entertained.

But over the years, things have changed and the culture in Hawaii changed. I went off to college in 2003 in California and wouldnʻt return back to the islands for the next 10 years (other than visits).

During those years, I lost a bit of myself and my identity. I became unsure of what I wanted to do and felt like I was wasting my time in everything I did. In 2011, I came across two blogs that played a large role in my re-discovery and introduction to minimalism: The Minimalists, and Zen Habits.

I rummaged through their archives and read their posts daily. There was something about minimalism that I felt drawn to. The ideas were familiar but yet new to me. I wanted to learn more.

As I began to question the things I owned: objects, thoughts, ideas, relationships, debt, etc. I realized that I am in complete control of the circumstances.

While growing up in Hawaii, I learned the values of my ancestors of what it meant to live a purposeful life. The two main core values I remembered were:

Pono – living righteously

Aloha – the life force of unconditional love

So in 2011, I went through all of my belongings. At that time my wife and I were living apart while she worked in Hawaii and I worked in California. I got rid of the TV, went through all the kitchenware, decluttered my drawers and closets, created a spacious office and living space, and used a bike for my sole purpose of transportation.

The end result? A feeling of freedom.

But getting rid of objects was the easiest part. I didnʻt even second guess myself when I threw out the TV, and I loved watching ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’. The hardest part I had was getting rid of the mental and emotional clutter.

As a young boy I grew up partially deaf with a speech impediment. And being Native Hawaiian, I dealt with the inferiority complex that many Native Hawaiians deal with still today. I had low self-esteem, went through times when I would freeze in anxiety, and was scared to ask questions with the fear of not being understood or made fun of.

I spent hours writing down my thoughts and ways to how I could personally grow and let go of all the negativity I held within. The more I wrote and reflected, the more comfortable I became with who I am. I started to walk Kū Kanaka, which in Hawaii means to stand and walk tall. I saw my transformation mentally and began to see the changes around me as well.

Now that Iʻm back in Hawaii and with my wife, we are living with my parents (the cost of living in Hawaii is crazy!). My wife is not a minimalist and my parents have the tendency of holding on to and accepting objects because they have a hard time letting go and saying ‘no’. But there is an understanding between us and when we talk about minimalism, they are all very interested but respond with, “I could never do that, it seems too hard.”

One of my favorite quotes is by Miyamoto Musashi, “It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.”

So I write to share my story and thoughts about simplifying life in paradise, living pono, and finding Aloha for yourself and in the world around you. It’s a work in progress and I only hope to inspire other minimalists and people in Hawaii to see the beauty behind minimalism.

Minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of things. It’s also about creating a life that is filled with meaning and value.

Aloha and A hui hou. (Good-bye and Until we meet again)

Daniel, The Minimalist Kanaka

{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: Sophie

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

Today we meet Sophie, who tells us how a simple home improvement project led to a wonderful new lifestyle.

Sophie writes:

It All Started With the Hardwood Floors

In a small photo album on my bookshelf, I keep a picture from 2006: a huge dining room hutch cupboard, every shelf loaded with knickknacks and totchkes. All of them had to be dusted regularly; all (the hutch included) are long gone. But I’m getting ahead of the story . . .

It all started with the hardwood floors. In 2006, a relative died and left my mother a small inheritance. Since money had been tight since my father died in 2004, we had not had the means to do some necessary repairs and renovations on our 60 year old house. Now we were able to sit down and decide on our priorities. One of these was tearing up the old, funky wall-to-wall carpeting and renovating the hardwood floors. The hardest part? No, not stripping, sanding, polishing and sealing the floors; oh, no, it was moving all of our STUFF to actually get at the floors. Bookcases, tables, a sofa, a loveseat, more bookcases (a total of four, all stuffed with books), um, more tables, assorted statues and, well, more STUFF that had to be moved from one room to the next in order to get to the floor. And then the light bulb went on over my head. Instead of having to move all this STUFF back, why not just . . .get rid of it? Go through it, keep the best and give away the rest. And that was what we did. Every drawer, every bookshelf, every closet, every dark, cluttered corner was searched and cleaned. Relatives and friends who stopped by were happy to receive items that they had long admired; various charities received donations of furniture, books, clothing, unopened sheet sets, and other useful items. Slowly, our house took on a more open, spacious and light-filled atmosphere. I could literally feel fresh air, light and energy flowing through our now-uncluttered rooms. And we could see our beautiful floors! Phase One of the Great Purge was over.

Nothing succeeds like success, and my family and I found additional ways to declutter and simplify our lives. As time went on, we went from owning four cars to owning two (and my background as a transportation analyst became very useful.) The clotheslines my father had installed in the backyard sixty years ago suddenly had a new lease on life as I discovered how energy-efficient and pleasant it was to hang the laundry out to dry. My sister’s long-neglected raised garden beds also had a new life as my family learned to grow vegetables (we were defeated by the eggplant, however.)

As we conclude the eighth year of our ongoing minimalist journey, we are continually discovering new ways to simplify our lives. That is the beauty of a minimalist lifestyle: it is fluid, flexible and adaptable. We have kept some practices, jettisoned others, and tried new ones. That is the core of minimalism and simple living: it can (and will) change as needed. And most of all, it is so liberating and fun! By eliminating the unnecessary and superfluous from my life, I now have the time to appreciate and enjoy what I have. I have found that my family and I can do regular decluttering of our house to keep it open and clean and this has become one of the most enjoyable aspects of our journey. And this is a journey – destination unknown, but we’re having a lot of fun getting there. I might even try growing those eggplants again next summer.

{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.}