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 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.}

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.

Today we have a wonderful contribution from John, who shares his progress a year into his minimalist journey. Be sure to visit his blog to read more.

John writes:



Hello there! I am John from

I began my minimalist journey last year, after the dissolution of my marriage. I was alone in a large, 2600 sq ft house filled with the accumulation of 25 years and four children (who are now adults living on their own). I was faced with the decisions of what to do now?

How to best use the second half of my life and the time I have remaining on this earth?

In my quest to answer that ubiquitous question, I discovered minimalism and simple living through the blogs, such as The Minimalists, Zen Habits, Be More with Less, and Miss Minimalist. I slowly began to realize making my life simpler and more authentic was truly what I wanted.

One thing was obvious. I had too much stuff.

Why does a single, middle-aged man need over two dozen cloth napkins?

Over the past year I have been paring down my inventory. It was difficult at first and I started with the biggest item first – my sports car.

I loved that little roadster. It was fun to drive, yet it was redundant and impractical. I have no regrets in selling it, and my life is simpler and more pleasant without it. I began to sell other items on Craigslist and it has been a worthwhile process of learning to let go. Lately I have been giving things away to friends and family. It is very freeing, and it allows others to enjoy items that are no longer useful for my lifestyle.

The more challenging part of the minimalism journey is reducing the mental clutter. Over the decades I have accumulated wrong, unnecessary thinking (mental baggage), such as “big is better” and “the more responsibilities I take on, people will like me more”, or worse “I have nothing of value to contribute to this conversation/relationship”.

Embracing minimalism has allowed me to re-evaluate my values and beliefs from a fresh perspective. By reducing the physical clutter in my life, I have reduced the distractions and allowed myself the freedom to focus on things that are important to me. Not only have I made physical space, I have made mental and emotional space. I try to be more observant of what goes on around me, more available to live in the moment, and more engaging with the people in my life.

As part of my journey to recovery, I started a blog earlier this year. I created The Hill of Beans as a forum for discussing what matters in this crazy world and to encourage my readers to simplify their lives, savor the short time they have here on earth, and think about that which is important and lasting. I invite you to read more at

It has been a great journey on the road of minimalism. I am far from complete. I still live in a big house, but have a plan to downsize and reduce my individual footprint. Most importantly, I truly enjoy the more “authentic” person I am becoming along the way.

{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: Bethany

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 Bethany, who was first featured as a Real Life Minimalist in June 2012. She shares with us the exciting changes of the last two years, and invites you to read more about her family’s new adventure on her blog.

Bethany writes:

In the summer of 2012, while cruising  our 29-foot sailboat, I shared my story with all of you. That was an incredible summer, as my family of 3 lived aboard for a total of 91 days. Housework took 5 minutes each morning, so we had time to go out and enjoy the day. We loved the boating community, and we loved the lifestyle.

Then it was time to return to reality.

This was the reality of houses, of people being walled in by possessions, of people doing all they can to avoid interacting with one another. We didn’t feel at home here; we didn’t belong. My daughter often cried that she wanted to go back to Moonraker. I was working a job that I didn’t like, so that I could pay for a house I wasn’t crazy about, in a town where I didn’t want to live. All we had was the promise of 91 days of bliss. 91 days out of 365.

After an incredibly challenging winter of soul searching and mental decluttering, we decided to leave it all behind. That house didn’t love us, and life was too short to spend in an unhappy situation. Over the summer of 2013, instead of launching Moonraker, we emptied out our 4-bedroom house. We kept whatever possessions would fit into our Volvo station wagon and a small U-haul trailer, and drove 1300 miles away, to Houston.

For a year, we lived very simply in an apartment. We loved city life! There was so much to do nearby, and so many free activities for our daughter, that owning a lot of possessions really wasn’t necessary. There was also a stronger sense of community that had been lacking in our previous town.

In July 2014, our next home found us. She is a 35 foot sailboat, built in 1966. Her very appropriate name is Breaking Tradition. It was love at first sight.

After three weeks of working frantically to make this boat into a home, our family was able to move onboard. Because we had so few possessions to begin with, emptying out the apartment took a couple days–rather than the months it took to empty the house. We now live in about 200 square feet of clean, uncluttered bliss.

This lifestyle has agreed very well with our daughter, who is 7 and has high-functioning autism. The rocking of the boat and tightness of her life jacket are soothing to her, and she loves having a slip close to the pool! She has plenty of opportunity to socialize and play with other kids, and she can also retreat to the familiarity of her v-berth bedroom. Owning a lot of possessions or even having a house is not necessary when you have a child with special needs.

Living in a small space, I have found minimalism to be a practical tool, rather than a set of rules to follow. In order to live comfortably and keep our boat uncluttered, we do without a number of things. We have no oven, we only have dishes for 3, and I only have 3 pans (a skillet, a saucepan, and a pressure cooker). My daughter has fewer toys than other kids, and our wardrobes consist of 5 outfits.

However, we do “break” a few rules that other minimalists follow. To start with, we have a television, hidden in one of our cupboards. We don’t have cable, but we do enjoy streaming Netflix and enjoying a family movie night. And to that end, we also store an electric corn popper. Yes, a single use appliance! It helps to feed our addiction. And we also have a Nintendo Wii, so that we can challenge each other to Mario Kart on rainy days.

All in all, we absolutely love our new lifestyle. As we sit in the cockpit, sipping iced tea and watching the sun set over the water, I can’t help but be grateful that we stopped following the rules and decided to follow our dreams instead.

{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: Sharity

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, Sharity tells us how her house was (literally) cracking apart beneath her—and how it inspired her to live a lighter, freer, more minimalist life.

Sharity writes:

I don’t recall the exact moment when I discovered minimalism, but I’ve been reading about it and working on it for myself for at least a couple of years now.

I grew up with a mentally ill mother, and it wasn’t until the popularity of shows like Hoarders that I realized my mom was a hoarder. Correction: HOARDER. (She passed away in 1995 and cleaning out her house was an incredible experience, but it still didn’t quite make me a minimalist.)

When I moved out to go to college (ok, escaped) I took everything with me to my dorm room. Everything. My dorm room was packed and chock full of stuff that I now realize I did. not. need. There was a girl a couple of doors down from me, and I remember looking into her room more than once and being amazed at how neat and orderly it was. She had almost nothing. Her bed, a desk. Eight magazine covers of her favorite models (she was tall and gorgeous and could have been one) above her bed and all her clothes in the closet. Again, in retrospect, I’m sure she did better in school than I did because she could most likely focus better than I ever could in all my mess.

My mother passed away about a year after I graduated college. It was a tough experience; she had cancer and I quit my job and moved back home to help care for her the last 5 1/2 months of her life. Most of my stuff wound up in my friends basement, there certainly wasn’t anywhere to put it at my moms. Once the estate settled, I decided I wanted a new life and moved to a different state. I got rid of a lot because I couldn’t afford to move it. I had a small apartment with very little in it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I really loved the simplicity of that little place.

Fast forward some years and a couple of moves to new states, and I thought I was ready to settle. My (now) husband and I bought a house. And we filled it up. Then, about two years in, we found out our house had a serious structural problem in the form of a slow subsidence sinkhole under it. Insurance denied our claim, and it took 9 years to work our way through the system and get the house situation resolved. Nine years of living in a house that is slowly cracking apart underneath you will change your perspective on a lot of things. (We couldn’t afford to move out of it during the process because if we stopped paying our mortgage then our lawsuit would have gone away.)

I am proud to say we are now almost at 1 year of crackhouse-free living. With our hard-fought for insurance settlement we bought a much smaller house that will be paid for in two years or less. I purged an incredible amount of stuff before we moved from 1700 square feet to 720 square feet and we still had a garage packed to the rafters when we first moved in. I consistently work at reducing our possessions, reading and learning about leading a simpler life and stress free living. My husband has made it clear he is unwilling to go any smaller, so I can forget having a tiny house, (darn it) but I am continually amazed at how lighter and freer life has become. I’m not done yet; we’ve cleared a lot of debt and a lot of crap. My goals are to be able to work less, travel more and enjoy my down time instead of spending it cleaning or yes even de-cluttering. Some projects are harder than others. I love books, but clearing out over 1000 books (and going digital) has proven to be easier than letting go of some favorite clothes that are no longer age or lifestyle appropriate.

I’m a work in progress looking forward to the second half of my life as an adventure, not a a struggle to maintain a bunch of things that don’t matter anyway.

{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: Natalie

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

This week, I’m pleased to feature Natalie. She tells us how minimalism helped her family reclaim not only their space, but also their time. Read more about her new “unbusy” life on her blog.

Natalie writes:



I’m Natalie, a 36 year old married mother of 3 kids from Melbourne Australia.

Being part of a family of five means that there is a lot of “stuff” in our home–toys, clothes, paperwork, food, junk, junk, junk.

My minimalism journey began by accident around mid-2013. I had heard the term minimalism and was curious to find out what it meant so here I was, in the middle of the night, researching minimalism while my family was fast asleep. What I discovered rang alarm bells and made me realise that this was how I wanted to live my life: this would be a new beginning for our family.

Our first home declutter session yielded 16 garbage-sized bags of items that we donated to charity, and countless items that were discarded or given to friends.

I found myself with not only less items in our home, but a tidier house, which meant less cleaning for me! This gave us more time to spend together as a family–summer 2014 and we spent many weekends down at the beach, at parks and playgrounds and also hiking with our kids. My husband and I had time to spend as a couple, and we spent less time and energy worrying about money, work and other everyday stresses. Some challenges were still there, but we had changed our attitudes and views and we had different priorities.

Fast forward 10 months and what I had learnt by creating a more minimalist lifestyle for my family was that part of what contributed to the “maxi” lifestyle we once had was that we were too busy–spending too much time, energy and money focused on those things that are not important. Our busyness had contributed to a house full of “stuff”, and a mind full of “stuff”. It was more than just the physical elements of a crazy lifestyle that made us reach a breaking point–it was taking a toll on us mentally.

In May 2014, I decided to create a blog “Unbusy Me” which focuses on helping others and sharing advice on how to create a less busy life, and also shares with readers ways that I spend my time now that I am less busy (for example, travelling and healthy cooking).

I live in a very family-oriented community, with lots of young families and couples just beginning their life journeys together and I do see many who struggle with keeping up a level of lifestyle that I can only imagine involves lots of sacrifice of time, health and wellbeing. I hope to be able to reach out to some of these people and show them a different way of living which has helped our family become more happy and healthy.

{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: Dee

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’d like to introduce you to Dee, who chronicles her relationship with stuff from her childhood to her (more minimalist) present. What a wonderful transformation she’s made in her perspective on possessions!

Dee writes:

Since childhood, my relationship with my stuff has been complicated. My parents would never be on television for their hoarding – there were no goat trails through waist-high piles of clutter, no rodents or trash in the living room – but each of them had hoarding tendencies.

My mother cannot let go of furniture that is in good condition, no matter how cluttered it makes her home. When she bought her second dining room table, she moved the old one over five feet and put the new one right next to it. She now has six dining room tables. Some were purchased, some were taken from people who couldn’t sell them. Her house is 5000 square feet, and she lives in it alone, an old woman surrounded by furniture and decorative knickknacks.

My father was a paper and “information” hoarder. About 800 square feet of the house was dedicated to his “office space”, filled with conference tables and filing cabinets. For a few years, he methodically filed articles of interest in four-drawer filing cabinets. After he filled sixteen four-drawer cabinets, he started piling the papers on the tables. When he died, every flat surface was covered with piles of paper, stacks of CDs, even teetering piles of old 5-inch floppy disks. He owned more than seven computers when he died. I can only imagine how cluttered his hard drives were.

With parents like that, you’d imagine I was given free rein to keep as much stuff as I wanted within the confines of my room. Instead, my parents exerted their own control over my property. Nothing was truly mine – every item I owned was subject to being given away or tossed out on a whim, particularly by my narcissistic mother. My sisters often searched my room and took any items of interest, then denied having done so. I learned to jealously guard my treasures and hide them from others for fear of losing them to theft or the whims of a hoarder parent.

At 20, I moved out of the parental home and in with my boyfriend, a self-described “collector” of music memorabilia. We were poor, but we were avid shoppers at thrift stores, often driving for miles to hunt down treasures. My boyfriend respected my things and encouraged me to indulge myself in cheap stuff. I started collecting all kinds of things – books, decorative glass, record albums, posters, costume jewelry. It was a bit like having a second childhood, one where I could own my stuff and only I could decide what stayed or went.

But all of it stayed and I avoided getting rid of anything. Within a year or two, our small apartment was overrun with stuff, much of it piled onto teetering shelves made from reclaimed wooden boards and cinderblocks we found in dumpsters.

The idea that we had too much stuff came upon me gradually. We were living in a cluttered mess, but it was the little things I noticed: books that got moldy before I could read them; photos that were destroyed by humidity; vintage clothes that got moth-eaten as they sat in boxes under the bed; furniture that had gotten so dusty, the dust had melded into the varnish. I read books on hoarding and realized that my parents hadn’t given me good examples of how normal people use and discard possessions.

As I started to weed out my no-longer-treasured treasures, my boyfriend’s discomfort with anything “musical” leaving the house intensified. I reined in my desire to control his possessions and focused on getting rid of my own. The discarding process became a joy as I realized that I was making the decisions about what I got rid of, not my controlling, hoarding parents.

Today I have come full circle: it bothers me to have an item I’m not using, even if I have space for it, and I can easily let go of items I no longer need. I still have more decorative objects than most minimalists, but they are all items I love and that fit the space I have without clutter. My closets are full, but not stuffed, and every item in there is worn and useful. My home is neat, well-organized, and uncluttered. Every day, I try to find something I can donate or resell.

Most importantly, I have learned how to truly own my own stuff, not to have my stuff own me.

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

Real Life Minimalists: Jake DaSilva, Minimalist Outdoorsman

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 Jake DaSilva, Minimalist Outdoorsman. I’m happy he’s shared his story with us, as it’s so different than any we’ve had in the past—illustrating how minimalism can apply to a wide spectrum of lifestyles and interests.

Jake writes:

Even though I grew up rural and poor I never wanted for material items; rather I wanted time and experiences. This value has governed my life and fortified my minimalism. And while most people talk of their path to minimalism I want to describe my present in minimalism.

I am an avid outdoorsman. I like fishing, canoeing, foraging, shooting guns, and occasionally going hunting – for waterfowl mostly. These activities are generally considered equipment-intensive but I have found ways to minimize the equipment and still take thrill in the experience and – in the case of fishing and hunting – still take my harvests.

Let me clear up a few things. I don’t fish or hunt for trophies. I fish and hunt for delicious, wild, organic, free-flying or free-swimming foods.

As a minimalist angler I keep two fishing poles. One is rigged up for light action. The other is rigged up for medium action. I fish with worms only – panfish worms (wax worms, meal worms, butter worms) and night crawlers. Fishing with live bait means I don’t have a tackle box full of tackle. My tackle box has small hooks, some split-shot sinkers, a few bobbers, a stringer, hemostats, and not much else. I carry a small cooler with ice for dispatching my catch humanely.

The fish I pursue are sunfish and catfish. Panfish worms catch the sunnies and nightcrawlers catch the cats. These two fish have generous limits, if any, and are indigenous to most bodies of water here in Ohio, “The Heart of It All.”

I fish from the bank in boots or waders. I fish from my canoe too.

I also hunt from my canoe, which is a solo 12 footer. I have a tiny fleet of 6 mallard and 8 Canada goose decoys. I use natural cover or small pop-up blind. Waders, a camo coat, a PFD, and a 12 gauge shotgun round out my gear – along with a couple calls on lanyard around my neck.

When I go clay shooting, I use an inexpensive but sturdy pump shotgun – no tweed vests or expensive cigars in my mouth and certainly no $5,000 shotgun. That just wouldn’t be minimalist.

For foraging I simply use a step ladder. The feral mulberries and apples of Ohio awaken the senses and delight the tummy.

By having just the bare essentials of these outdoor hobbies allows me to more often enjoy them. Rather than working my days away to buy more gear or tinkering my nights away on gadgets I can be out on the water reeling in big bluegill for my butter masala or harvesting a goose for stew in the crock pot or simply enjoying a spring day shooting sporting clays with a friend.

As for my minimalist street cred: I own about 246 things at the time of this writing. While I don’t think that counting every possession is a system that works for everyone, it works for me. I can’t simply play jazz with my minimalism. I need the numbers. I share an 1100 square foot house with two housemates. 175 square feet are my personal space – bathroom and bedroom. Living room, garage, etc. are shared spaces, obviously. I have a rescue dog; his name is Harlan. He is allowed 10 possessions of his own.

I apply minimalism to virtually every aspect of my life. I do not own a computer. I do not own any books. I do not own, take, or appear in any photographs (except my driver’s license and my passport). I shave my head. I own only dark colored clothing to minimize laundry-related tasks. My car is small, I am transitioning to a car-lite lifestyle, and I have a five year plan to go car-free. I have two pieces of art on my wall, both by local artists I know personally. My diet is low on the food chain – mostly beans, rice, oats, fruits and veggies from my garden, nature’s garden, or from the nearest grocery store. I obviously supplement this with fish and game. I also practice mindfulness meditation – the ultimate in minimalist hobbies!

While vanquishing my vanity is something I strive to do each day, I wanted to take this opportunity to present myself as an example of an unconventional minimalist. My hope being that adding to the diversity of the ranks of known minimalists will eventually lead to an overall increase in the ranks of minimalists at large.

{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: Kim

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

Today we have an update from Kim, who was featured in this series last September. I think we can all relate to how some clutter falls through the cracks, and how it’s best to remember how far we’ve come!

Kim writes:



A year ago, I waxed lyrical on my journey towards minimising the number of books I own, rapidly decreasing their numbers from 2000 to just a couple of hundred. I hadn’t actually counted, I know that if I go down that road there will be no end to it – items in the cutlery drawer, pairs of socks, hairs on head. So, imagine, if you will, my surprise when I discovered a box, medium in size, cardboard slightly damp to touch, shunted away in a far and distant corner of my loft (or attic depending on where you reside). I may have been tempted to ignore it, assume it wasn’t mine, (I have a good handle on how much I own after all) and merrily get on with my day. The problem was, mine or not, the slate cold of the cardboard led me to be concerned for its contents and so open it I must.

The tape crumbled around my hands, glad I’m sure of a final respite from its failed adhesive mission, and the spongy lids bent open in an unpleasant and guilty manner. Beneath their swollen, corrugated mass lay books, my books. Long forgotten and cast upon the mercy of a damp Victorian loft some had wrinkled, curling in upon themselves as though in protection, like a woodlouse crouching at the back of a rabbit hutch. At the bottom lay my most guilty finds, two hardback first editions, bent in the middle like a spine straining to lift a great weight. I felt pretty stupid in all honesty.

With my tail firmly between my legs, I dutifully hauled them down from the loft, paying penance for my oversight on a hot afternoon, and dried them in the sun. Upon inspection, I decided to keep a couple, for now at least and bagged the rest up for charity, luckily, none were so damaged that a charity wouldn’t be able to make use of them. And so I sat in the sun, next to a pile of books I didn’t know I still owned, and closed my eyes. I let the sun gently turn my eyelids red and warm my skin. I felt silly, guilty and fraudulent. I have delved into the loft to clear things many times over the past two years, how did a fairly sizable, weighty box manage to completely evade me in this way?

I sensed my cat, Molly, before I opened my eyes to find her reclining luxuriantly at my feet. As I sat stoking her white-as-snow tummy, I remembered the length of the road I had travelled these past two years. I reminded myself that the biggest change must come from within and not from counting possessions, but, if I did decide to count, which I don’t, that I had probably come close to halving the amount of stuff in my life and that is no mean feat in a short space of time. The box itself wasn’t really the issue, I realised that I should push away all thoughts of guilt and failure and concentrate on how easy it was to decide to part with what I had found. Maybe it was worth finding that box so that I could be reminded of this.

Whether you are new to this path or have been walking so long your soles are grazing the earth, there will always be moments, hiccups in time that challenge your concept of progress. During these small ruptures in the fabric of your thinking, please, take a moment to sit quietly and remember all that you have accomplished so far.

{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: Lauren

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, Lauren tells us how she discovered the joys of minimalism through long-distance hiking. Visit her blog to follow her on her journey.

Lauren writes:



Some aspects of minimalism have always come naturally to me, but I can point to my 2006 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail as a turning point. I had not done much backpacking before I set out for this 2,200 mile walk up and down the hills and mountains of the eastern United States, but it didn’t take long for me to learn that the more stuff I carried on my back, the more uncomfortable I would be and the less able to enjoy the stunning scenery or conversations with fellow hikers. As I hiked north I learned how to reduce my pack-weight and still stay reasonably warm and dry in the woods. I became a proficient lightweight backpacker, hiking for almost five months, carrying all of my possession on my back and stopping in towns along the way once or twice a week to replenish my food supplies, do laundry and a enjoy a shower and a restaurant meal. Most days I walked all day, and to steal a line from Forest Gump, “When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went.”

And I was happy. On the trail, freed from our belongings and the constant distractions of cell phones, televisions and the internet, as well as from the categories that society places us in, I connected deeply  and meaningfully with other hikers that I might not have had the opportunity to know in the “real world” because of different ages or socioeconomic statuses. On the trail, these distinctions became meaningless. We shared a common goal and a lifestyle. I also connected with members of the communities through which the trail passes. People who provide services, help and kindness to hikers are called trail angels. My own vulnerability in a new and sometimes harsh environment opened me up to receive the kindness of strangers and to fully experience the joy of being part of a community. The slower pace of life necessitated by walking as the only means of transportation seemed to make me and my fellow travelers more approachable to strangers who on several occasions shared intimate details about their lives.

While paring down necessities is an aspect of minimalism that has always come easily to me, simplifying my life in regard to limiting commitments of my time has been an ongoing struggle. During my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, as well as subsequent 2000+ mile hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail, I spent a total of fourteen months focusing solely on one goal. All day, everyday, I walked. In doing so, I achieved my most notable accomplishments. I have hiked the entire length of the United States twice, and came dang close a third time. I have walked 7,000 miles during these three long distance hikes. In other times of my life, working towards three or four goals at a time while maintaining social, work, and community obligations, I have accomplished far less. I continue to strive to simplify my time and commitments to allow me to live a simple and purpose-driven life even when I am in society, where distractions are much more pervasive than on trail. I know that simplifying is necessary for environmental, spiritual and social justice reasons. From my experiences on America’s long distance hiking trails, I also know that a simple and focused life with minimal possessions allows me to take in the scenery, connect with my fellow travelers, and to enjoy the journey more thoroughly. As a wise man once told me, “The journey is the reward.”

I wrote about my recent Continental Divide Trail hike at, and will continue to write about my outdoor pursuits on that blog. That blog has links to my previous trail journals as well.

{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.}