Real Life Minimalists: Nyamka

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 Nyamka, who tells us how minimalism changed the course of her career and her life. Stop by her blog to learn more about her journey.

Nyamka writes:

Nyamka

Nyamka

Recently, it dawned on me that my life would be just like everyone in my life, busy. Growing up my parents were busy. My father was quite busy as a doctor, often working over time staying at the hospital overnight. My mother was also busy working full time, leaving early in the morning before I woke up, and when she came home she had housework to do. I wish I got to spend more time with them.

I wanted a different life than my parents, of course. A life where people had time to spend with each other, but I didn’t know there was any other way, and so I was on the same path as everyone around me, busy, working hard to secure a safe future. From observation, this was often at the expense of their health and relationships.

My decisions in life were made with the purpose to be safe and comfortable. I was to become a lawyer for the same purpose, plus I could be good at it. I studied full time to finish my bachelor’s degree majoring in economics and finance, and after graduating I was to apply to law school. I knew graduate law was going to time consuming. I knew that life as a lawyer involved lots of long hours for years. I didn’t know a single young lawyer who had work life balance. Still, I continued with my plan. I thank the magic of Internet for allowing me to stumble upon minimalism.

From the start I was enamoured with minimalism. A different lifestyle was possible. It was so different to what I had experienced in life. Have what you love, and love what you have. Then apply this principle to every aspect of your life. People had only what they needed and this allowed them to be less busy and spend more time doing what they loved.

Initially, I thought it was unachievable for me, but after reading every blog post written on Zen habits, Miss Minimalist, and few other blogs on minimalism I gleaned the courage to become a minimalist myself. It was the human stories that made the principle of minimalism come alive to me. The stories and examples showed me that everyone had to start from somewhere.

Knowing there was a different option, I started de-cluttering. I de-cluttered till the two shelves in my room had nothing on it. Soon my table had nothing on it. I got rid of bags and bags of stuff. I started a blog to chronicle my journey. That got me thinking on paper, which made me question my life more objectively. Eventually it lead me to move out from home. I wanted the freedom to edit my life.

When I graduated, I didn’t apply for law school as planned. Some people were surprised. I was surprised too. For a few months I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I had the freedom to choose my own direction but I had nothing, I hadn’t thought about what I wanted to do in my life before. I had a very vague idea. I wanted a life where I was healthy, happy, and had time for my loved ones. It was difficult to figure out how to get there, but I got there in the end.

Getting rid of the material clutter helped to get rid of the mental clutter. With time and space to really think about my life, within a few months I figured out what I wanted to do. I figured out what made me happy all along, I just never paid attention to it. I can say now with full certainty that I like helping people, cooking, and writing.

Through minimalism I understood I had personal responsibility to shape the life I wanted to live. I have finished de-cluttering, but I will always be simplifying my life.

Thanks to minimalism, I have managed to combine my passion for cooking and helping people. I am going to be a Health Coach soon. I wish I came across minimalism sooner. If you have been waiting for a sign to start, this is it! Go for it!

If you relate to this story follow me on my journey to be well, do good, and change the world one simple step at a time at www.agirlcallednyamka.com.

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

Real Life Minimalists: Minimalist Mommy

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, Minimalist Mommy gives us an inspiring account of how she decluttered her toddler’s toys. I think all of us with little ones can relate to her story!

Minimalist Mommy writes:

Minimalist Mommy

Minimalist Mommy

I am a stay at home mom of 2 wonderful children. My son is 3 years old and my daughter is 3 months old. Before my son was born we were so excited for his arrival that we gathered up as many toys we could from garage sales and hand me downs from friends and made our entire bonus room into quite the playroom! He had so many toys and he wasn’t even born yet! Once he got to the age were he could actually play with all these toys, we discovered how quickly our home became a complete disaster, multiple times a day. I spent so much time cleaning up and maintaining these toys and it was getting quite irritating.

Then we went on a vacation to Kauai. We had very limited space to bring toys with us so I just packed his favorites, a handful of hotwheel cars, his favorite books, a watercolor paint set, crayons and color book and maybe a few other small items. We were there for 8 days and he was perfectly content with what I brought. That was kind of my “Ah ha” moment. As soon as we got back home I donated about half of his toys. And you know what? He didn’t even notice! Since then I’ve been slowly paring down the toys and only keep what he really loves and plays with and now he has about 1/4 of what he had and he doesn’t miss any of it!

Once I got pregnant with my daughter the “nesting” kicked in and I was inspired by all these famous minimalists online to pare down my whole house. And I did! I gave away about 1/2 to 3/4 of what we own. And once again I don’t miss any of it! Now that I have a toddler and a newborn it is so nice to be able to quickly clean up any toys on the floor or any messes and have so much more time to spend with them and my husband. It’s been well worth it!

{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: Amity

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 Amity, who writes about the benefits of being a “Mini Me.” Check out her blog to read more of her story!

Amity writes:

Amity

Amity

Once, long ago, I had an astounding number of knickknacks and t-shirts. That was the tip of the iceberg. I had two drawers (one that was meant to hold hanging folders) filled to the brim with stationary. One wide shelf of my pantry was entirely devoted to tea. I was not a hoarder; rather, a second cousin: a collector.

When I was in my early 30’s I had an epiphany. I don’t need this much stuff! Beginning in 2009 or 2010 I purged my home twice a year. Everything got an inspection and an interrogation to see if it could stay.

This is my fifth year of seeking to be a minimized me. The rewards of adopting a ‘less is more’ attitude are of such magnitude I don’t know if I can convey to you my personal pleasure. But, I am going to try.

I have more money, time, and freedom than ever before. Sound to good to be true? Hang with me. I am not making this up. This is why I aspire to always be Mini Me.

Money

By not buying anything, I am saving at an unprecedented rate. I regularly go on spending fasts for fun and for a bit of a personal challenge. I have more money left over after paying bills. Now I get mad if I don’t save at least several hundred a month. When I started, I thought I was ready to retire if I spared 300 in a month from being squandered.

Time

This is more important to me than money. I have time to relax, explore, and create. My house now is so decluttered it takes about an hour to clean. My social calendar has been minimized and I spend several nights of the week without any pressing engagements, except to pet my cats and stroll with my hubby through our older neighborhood (with very mature, beautiful landscaping and quiet streets).

Freedom

Perhaps most important of all is personal freedom. By being a Minimalist, I had low enough expenses that I could try working part time. I decided I would explore my creativity. I painted, started a blog, and wrote a book. Minimize: Kill your debt. Live your dream. was launched in December of 2013. Had I had an out-of-control shopping habit, or crippling debt, I would have never known what I was capable of when left to my own devices.

Even if you have just cleared your first surface, you will experience a benefit. That space can be admired in a new way. One space leads to other spaces being reclaimed, and then the benefits begin to multiply.

Don’t take my word for it; see for yourself. Minimize!

{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: Agilborder

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

This week, I’m happy to introduce you to Agilborder. She decluttered a tremendous amount of stuff in a very short time, trading a house full of possessions for the freedom of early retirement. Wonderful!

Agilborder writes:

A year ago my husband and I found our dream retirement location, but we really had not considered retiring. House prices in that area were low and “live lightly on the land” was the motto of the place we chose. We decided that if we super-downsized, became more cognizant about what we really needed, sold our stuff and big houses, we could afford to retire now.

I began researching and The Joy of Less became my model for our future. We put our 8000 sq ft (yes it is embarrassing) on the market and although our agent told us it might take 6 to 8 months to sell the whopper house, it sold to the first people who looked at it for the price we wanted. The catch…30 day closing. This is where Miss Minimalist gets my sincere thanks. By using The Joy of Less as my road map, I navigated the mountain of stuff we had accumulated. For years, I had been the keeper of all my and our extended family memorabilia because I had the big house with lots of storage. We had moved 3 times, always to larger homes and just carried all the stuff with with us. DONT EVER DO THIS! Go through every box before a move and be honest about what you really want and need!

I called up my siblings and told them that I wasn’t keeping any furniture, limited memorabilia and just what we need in retirement. They were shocked (one even suggested I might have a brain tumor that was causing this shocking change) came and tagged what they wanted, got storage units (mistake in my book, but got it out of my realm) and I had movers pack and move their stuff. Ahhh! First layer of lightening done.

Next, I had to deal with everything else. With my college aged kids who are spread around the US, I used FaceTime. It was great. My kids started out saying, just keep my stuff, but with FaceTime I was able to open a box, ask them if they really wanted to keep “squiggly bear”. When faced with the picture and a yes or no or why? prompt from me, we whittled it down to a couple of memorabilia boxes each and a mountain of clothes, electronics, and stuff for goodwill. Second layer of lightening, done.

I found it much easier to make my own decisions about my stuff after watching how ruthless my kids became. But I still had a house full of antiques and contemporary furniture that I had filled the corners of my McMansion with; most had come from my family or our weekend antiquing habit. We weren’t allowed to have a garage sale or estate sale in my snooty McMansion neighborhood (what a crock) and there was just too much and too little time to Craigslist so I called in an antique auction house and a contemporary furniture auctioneer. This was great!!!! They came in, packed and moved everything offsite to auction. And I made a lot of money on all my “stuff”. I have to tell you how wonderful my house started to look as all these layers were removed. Any remorse? Absolutely none! Layers 3&4 done!

Finally I found a great company that would take everything else on the day before closing. They are called GoneForGood. Again, if they could sell it, they give you some money for it , but mostly they took stuff like mattresses, washer/dryer (mine weren’t snooty enough for my buyer ha ha) and stuff that I just ran out of time getting rid of. I personally hauled 15 pickup truckloads of stuff to Goodwill. Hoarder? Didn’t think so… I just bought a house with giant storage in each room and a huge basement storage where we had neatly boxed and labelled 30 years of “stuff”. Never again!!!!

We closed last Friday and got the big check. It feels wonderful! We moved clothes, books, some kitchen items to our retirement home and vowed to live with the minimal amount of furniture the previous owner left until we decide what we really want and need. There is no basement or attic and little room for storage thankfully. We immediately moved to our Ski house (I know- it is 3000sqft) and we are starting the process there–thankfully, no basement or memorabilia. It goes on the market once my husband retires which will be soon with the new 1:15 hour commute.

I just wanted to let everyone know what a help the book and Miss Minimalist blog was to inspire me. Over-stuffing comes to most everyone and the process (particularly my 30-day timeline) seemed daunting, but I got it done and I feel wonderful.

I will never, ever let myself get in this position again, and I know that we just got caught up in the “we can afford more so we should have and keep more” mentality. I know there will be some judgment here about someone who owns 3 houses but over-stuffing happens to everyone, and because of all your great stories, examples, and The Joy of Less book, we will sell the second house (furnished down to the dishes) as well and will be able to retire 5 years earlier than we dreamed. We are trading stuff for lifestyle, and it feels great living more lightly. We have a long way to go, but the big albatross is gone and the plan for albatross2 is in place. The weekly feed from Miss Minimalist has been so inspiring and I really do appreciate this community. I will continue to look for ways to reduce and I have to admit I really don’t miss a thing!

{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: Magalie Linda

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 Magalie Linda, an aspiring “semi-minimalist.” She’s documenting her decluttering process on her Tumblr, so be sure to check it out.

Magalie Linda writes:

Magalie Linda

Magalie Linda

I am not a minimalist. I don’t want to be one. At least not the one that has 2 pairs of pants or 2 shirts and lives out of a suitcase. But I am turning into a “semi minimalist”. You see, I do like to dress up. I like to accessorize. I like some of my stuff. But it is not my life. I am not my stuff.

It took me a while to realize this. When I started yoga, boxing and meditation to get more focussed, and of course, for physical purposes, it struck me how efficient the techniques of yoga and boxing are. You don’t use what you don’t need in a pose or a movement. It started to reflect back into my behavior.

One day not too long ago I came home. I was tired. I sat down on my sofa and I looked around my very very tiny house (it’s 147 square feet). I love my very very tiny house, but it was full of crap. My grandmother had died a few years ago, her belongings were mixed with some old stuff I had managed to hold on to and new things I had bought in moments of shopping fevers. I sat on my sofa feeling so empty in a house full of so many objects. Objects that should make me feel better, but they didn’t. Not anymore.

So, I started to think about how my grandmother was dead and that I had thought about her in the train going home. Not even in the house where her belongings were. When I was in the train I felt happy with my memory of her. It dawned on me that these items of hers were not a representation of me and my grandmother’s relationship. It was merely an item that I had placed a lot of value upon, but now it had made me feel tired. It was time to let go of this way of being.

But it was hard! It was my grandmother’s stuff. My stuff. But also it made me so tired with myself that I had these emotional waves towards an object. I was done with being tied down and tired. I was done with being mastered by things that I now know I have control over. It is just an object. I looked around the web to find some contenders who shared their experiences with minimalism and thus letting go of personal items.

Lo and behold there was a plethora of advice, experiences and even people who wrote books on the subject. I was not alone! I took this new information and I started to digest it.

That was the start of a whole chain of events and thoughts that have now been turned me into a semi-minimalist. I carefully am reviewing every item. Drawer per drawer, cabinet per cabinet, box per box. I don’t need to throw everything out, but definitely 80% is going out. It’s a fascinating process which I am documenting in my Tumblr. You would be surprised at how I get rid of some things in a strange way.

I find myself in a new place, and yet again it is not new. It is more a place for me where I feel more natural. It had always had to be like this. You could say, I am finally me. I have become generous. I find that some reaction that I would make in some situation, are now unnecessary. I even have more silly fun, because now there is room for it. In my head, my soul and in the material realm.

Thank you, minimalism bloggers and contributors for sharing. You saved a person. You have made this girl very happy.

{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: Maryn

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, Maryn tells us how she traded the dream of a glamorous life for a simple one. Please visit her blog to learn more about her journey.

Maryn writes:

Maryn

Maryn

Growing up in Los Angeles, I thought I needed a glamorous occupation to be happy. I had this vision of me in a chic black suit making moves in designer shoes. People told me I could do anything. Queue the music. People told me I could change the world. Queue the lights. After graduating from a good college, I sashayed my way into the real world. There was no music. There were no lights. Really, nobody cared. I found a job and starting earning a paycheck. Nearly a decade later, I’m still earning that paycheck and staring down a long road of doing something I don’t like so I can buy things I don’t need. I began to wonder, “Is this all there is?”

Last October my boyfriend and I decided to leave the city. We were tired of expensive living and the rat race. As we prepared for our move, I was floored by how much stuff we had. Those hard-earned paychecks were staring me in the face. There were endless boxes of new appliances, tchotchkes, and too many shoes. At that moment, I knew I had to break the cycle of consumer excess and paycheck-dependency. After years of chasing an empty dream, I needed to rewrite the script.

This move was our second chance. We carried our bags into our new space and instead of going into nesting mode I thought, “Let’s embrace the emptiness for a while. Let’s decide what we really need and figure out how we want to live here.” We went for weeks without anything but sleeping bags and a beach mat to eat our meals on. It felt a little strange at first, but I got used to it and even started to enjoy it. We embraced the idea of “floor living” with a futon bed, beanbag floor lounger and a couple of floor pillows. My boyfriend even made a low, Japanese style dining table for us. It was liberating. It made me feel grounded.

Since we moved, my fancy dresses and high heels have been gathering dust in the closet. My life now couldn’t be further from the dreams I once had. We walk to the grocery store and cook meals at home. We buy fresh foods and get only what we need for the week. We go for walks on the weekends. Somewhere along this journey I gave up my ambition for a fabulous life and traded it for a simple one. If you told me 8 years ago I would be buying groceries from a co-op and riding a bike to happy hour I would have said, “You’re crazy.” But here I am writing cross-legged on the floor and I’ve never been happier.

As a “minimalist in progress,” I would love to connect with those on a similar path. Visit me at www.thewellspringblog.com where I record the ups and downs of this new 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: SimpleSophy

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 SimpleSophy. She tells us about her frustration with having too much stuff, and what finally inspired her to pursue a pared-down life. Read more about her experiences on her blog.

SimpleSophy writes:

SimpleSophy

“I have too much stuff!”

It’s a decadent ‘First World’ moan, but it’s no less real and burdensome for that. I cannot tell you how oppressed I became by all my stuff, and how much I began to long to be rid of it.

I wasn’t always hankering after a clutter-free life. Indeed, as a child I was an avid collector of anything and everything. I couldn’t go for a walk in the countryside without returning with my pockets bulging with pretty stones, pine cones, shells and even animal skulls and antlers. I set up a mini museum in my bedroom, with natural artefacts on one shelf and ethnographic objects (a motley collection of broken bits of china and souvenirs) on another. Each was labelled lovingly and displayed to best advantage in a pleasingly artistic arrangement, while all around the museum my clothes, toys and books were scattered in enormous, unsightly heaps on the floor. My mother despaired.

As a teenager I began to collect books, and as a student my flat was stuffed with bookcases, all overfilled. Many of the books I hadn’t read, but still I liked to have them. They somehow seemed to hold a promise of a better life – an educated life with answers.

Books were succeeded by clothes, and although they never made me the better loved and admired person they told me I would be, I continued to waste money on them, year after year. I never seemed to have any ready cash and was unable to save anything for the future, yet my wardrobe was stuffed till the clothes were falling out on the floor.

All this while, though, I read books about people who lived the simple life. Up there amongst my favourites were the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series. I loved to read about the Ingalls family crossing the prairies and living out of their wagon, cooking over a camp fire and sleeping out under the stars with just their dog and Pa’s gun for protection against the Indians and the wolves. I loved to read about their log cabin in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, where the family lived off the land and made the big trip to town only once a year. I also loved to read about the Scottish Highlanders who lived in their tiny, turf-roofed black houses, described by outsiders as damp hovels but none the less housing some of the fittest and healthiest inhabitants of the British Isles. And later still I discovered the magnificent Granite Island by Dorothy Carrington and loved the descriptions of the austere, barbaric yet dignified life of the Corsican bandits, villagers and shepherds. And when I say loved, I mean loved. There was no topic I liked to read about more than people roughing the simple life.

It was as though I was living a life of magnificent simplicity in my imagination, while slowly creating a suffocating prison of stuff around me in reality. The more my imagination fed on the freedom of the boundless prairies of 19th century Kansas and Dakota, the more I imprisoned myself with my real 21st century life of stuff. Contradictory, or what?

A point came where I could take no more. I’d read Wilder, I’d read Thoreau, and my life no more resembled theirs than a battery chicken’s resembles that of a hawk. Where was my life going? I longed to be free and knew only my self-inflicted slavery. I also didn’t know where to start.

It was at that point that I discovered this marvellous new movement called minimalism. I think I first read about it in an article in the Saturday Times magazine which interviewed four or five people who had given up their things to live lives of awe-inspiring stufflessness. By modern consumerist  standards these people should have been miserable and deprived, but they were happy and productive! They were living in the modern world, leading modern lives, and yet they felt free. I tore the article out of the magazine and looked up all the blogs and websites that were mentioned. I discovered Miss Minimalist and The Minimalists and my own minimalist journey was begun.

I can’t say it has been easy. There have been many pitfalls, and it’s taken me nearly two years to get to where I am now (which is to say, somewhere further down the road). At first I decluttered, but then bought more stuff. Then I decluttered and didn’t buy so much stuff. Then I moved house from a 1 bed flat into a shared flat, and had the incentive to get my belongings down to one car load to make the move easier. I didn’t manage it. What I thought was one car load turned out to be three car loads. At the end of the move, in my exhaustion at having packed, cleaned, transported and unpacked all that stuff, I banged my head on the hard wooden edge of the bed while vacuuming and gave myself a bad concussion. I was in bed for two weeks, forbidden by the doctor to read or watch TV for more than ten minutes at a time. I still suffer from frequent concussion-related headaches and migraines. Dealing with my stuff literally damaged my brain!

Now I would say I am more motivated than ever to live without much stuff and to pursue a simple and minimalist way of life. I recently started blogging about my journey towards a simple life and I hope you’ll come over and visit me at www.simplesophy.wordpress.com.

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

Real Life Minimalists: Pia

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, Pia tells us how some difficult situations inspired her minimalist journey—and how much happier, and more meaningful, her life has become. Be sure to visit her blog to read more!

Pia writes:

Pia

Pia

I wasn’t always very mindful of the way I lived my life. Every paycheque went to shopping for the latest trends or eating out too much. I’d spend countless hours surfing the internet, Facebook and watching YouTube videos. I didn’t spend as much time with my family as I should have. I was too focused on myself. I ate crappy food and I barely exercised. So like most people, I always wondered, what else was out there other than just chasing every temporary high? I think I lived everyday blindly, unaware of what I was really doing to myself.

It all started with a breakup in April 2012 (my 28th year) with someone I was living with for 3 years. Everything was pretty easy peasy up until that point. I had everything I wanted and needed (or thought I wanted and needed) and I thought I was happy.

The most significant change for me was towards the end of 2013. It was announced that the very secure and amazing workplace I was at was going to be shut down. We were like a family. It was a place of many people’s dream jobs. Heartbreak was all around, and it was a true test of my emotional strength as I helped everyone get through it all (I work in Human Resources slash part-time therapist haha), while also trying to take care of myself. My body went through a lot of physical pain as well as my spirit.

But I learned that bad things can be a blessing in disguise.

I had a month off before I started my new job, so I had a lot of time to reflect on things like the meaning of life, what I was here for and what really mattered. That kind of happens when you don’t have much to do. I started meeting and hanging out with people who lived life on their own terms. Lived it with meaning. Worked for themselves or were spiritually aware. A friend recommended I read the Celestine Prophecy and it changed my whole perspective on everything.

I discovered a bunch of Minimalist Blogs as well, which were in line with my new values. I realized that I had everything I wanted materially but I still wasn’t happy. I had a lot of clutter that was filling my time and space, that I never really touched or used. So I started slowly purging my belongings that had no use. Beginning with my gigantic wardrobe, then to my book collection, then to my kitchen, and so forth. I kept only the things I really needed or mattered to me the most and downsized into a studio apartment and have been blissful ever since.

I finally felt so liberated from something that was holding me back and I honestly feel like I’m now living at a level I never thought was possible. Like the material world doesn’t matter at all anymore. Forget consumerism. Who cares. On my deathbed what is going to matter? I don’t care about the superficial stuff anymore. It’s irrelevant.

The things that matter the most to me are the people in my life, giving back to others, truly loving and accepting myself, my health and my freedom. All the preoccupation of the material world and keeping up with the Joneses is pretty exhausting and isn’t going to matter in the long run. I’d rather work and find meaning in it and look at it as a way of contributing something to the world.

Funny enough, I just recently lost my most recent job, but it hardly phased me. I am so blissed out and happy with the way I am living my life. New opportunities have opened up, things that I was always scared to do like teaching and leading classes at local schools and helping students with their careers.

Needless to say, ever since I started living minimally and more meaningfully, the things and people that have entered my life have been exactly what I’ve been looking for my entire life. I am so much happier.

{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: Irene

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 Irene. She shares the inspiration behind her minimalism, and the techniques she uses to achieve (and maintain) her simple lifestyle.

Irene writes:

Hi, I’m Irene from California and this is my minimalist story:

I was 17 years old when I discovered Elaine St. James’ book, The Simple Life, on display at Barnes and Noble. Elaine’s minimalist philosophy resonated with me and I reread her book several times.

My parents set great examples and taught me to value relationships and life experiences more than material things. We traveled often and we lived in 10 different homes before my 20th birthday. Through those journeys I began to consider which of my belongings were actually meaningful to me and worthy of shuffling from place to place. I wanted to be ready for the next adventure without unnecessary clutter weighing me down.

I flew off to college over 2,000 miles from home, bringing only a few boxes of possessions. There I realized that while I missed my family, friends, and the widespread availability of authentic Mexican restaurants, I didn’t miss any of the material things that I had left back home.

After graduating from college, I returned home and began to sell and donate many of my belongings that weren’t getting much use. I moved to a condo in a nearby city and filled it only with things that I used regularly. Less than a year later, I got married and my husband moved in with me. Fortunately, he shares my quest for simple living.

A few years after our wedding, we purchased our first home, which by most standards appears a bit empty. After five years in this house, we switched internet service providers; when the representative arrived to install our new system, he glanced around our spartan living room and asked if we had just moved in. I understood his confusion, since unlike most of our neighbors, we do not own a television and our decorations are sparse. By keeping only the pieces of furniture and decorator items that we use or truly enjoy, we save time cleaning and maintaining our home

After reading Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine, I went a year without spending any money on clothes, shoes, jewelry, or handbags. I made one exception for an alteration and fabric fee to tailor and add straps to a strapless bridesmaid dress.

Now that my year without buying clothes had ended, I generally practice a one-in-one-out strategy by making purchases only to replace a similar product. For example, if I buy a new pair of jeans, I will consign or donate my old pair. I’ve found Ebay and Twice to be excellent resources for selling used clothing.

My minimalist wardrobe saves me valuable time getting ready in the morning, and makes packing for vacations stress-free. My clothes are almost all in the same color scheme (solid black, denim, and khaki skirts, pants, and jackets, with colorful solid or print shirts) so everything coordinates. I also try to avoid buying clothes that require ironing, hand washing, or dry-cleaning.

During my year of reduced spending, I discovered that many of our needs, especially our clothing needs, are artificially created by marketers hawking their wares. I also learned that most of the things we rarely use can be easily borrowed instead of owned. Aside from my two Bibles and a few bible study books that I read frequently, I usually choose not to own items that I can borrow for free, such as books and DVDs. Our library even loans e-books, which I read on my cell phone during lunch breaks, and while riding airplanes or waiting in waiting rooms.

We are blessed that our parents have been very supportive of our simple lifestyle. For holidays, we usually share experiences, such as dinners at restaurants, a game of bocce ball, or a night at a magic show, instead of traditional gifts. Rather than giving each other birthday, Christmas, anniversary, and Valentine’s Day presents, my husband and I put a chunk of each paycheck into a vacation fund and take turns choosing our destinations. Together, we have visited Alaska, Canada, the Caribbean, Maui, Italy, France, Great Britain, and Portugal, and are planning many more vacations together in the future. We do not buy souvenirs on vacations, but we preserve the memories by discussing them and saving digital photos on our hard drives and flash drives.

I love that the minimalist lifestyle is so diverse, with varying goals, ages, and family sizes. My husband and I do not have children; other minimalists, such as Miss Minimalist, The Minimalist Mom and Becoming Minimalist practice minimalism with their children. The common thread connecting all minimalists is simply a mission to live within or below our means and eliminate the things we do not use or enjoy.

It has been inspiring to read the tips here and implement them at home. Thank you, Miss Minimalist, for providing this fantastic resource!

Irene's living room

Irene’s living room

{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.}

Stealth Decluttering

In the past, I used to engage in big, glorious acts of decluttering—the type in which an entire closet is emptied and the contents scattered across the room, each item awaiting its fate. Sometimes I’d put on music, pour a glass of wine, and dance around my castoffs.

Ah, those were the days… If I tried that now, a pint-sized scavenger would be dragging whatever she could grab to far-flung corners of our home. And I’m sure a good amount would be adopted as new (albeit unconventional) playthings.

So now I declutter in stealth mode.

Instead of extravagant purging sessions, I pare down our possessions quietly, piece by piece. I keep a donation box in the closet, and as I run across things that no longer pull their weight, I add them in—sometimes sneaking them across the house, if need be. To be honest, most of the castoffs belong to my daughter Plumblossom—outgrown clothing, toys, and baby accoutrements—hence the need for secrecy. If she catches sight of a familiar item (no matter how long it’s been forgotten), it may get stuck in our house for months to come.

Which got me thinking…stealth decluttering can be an effective technique if you’re facing resistance from full-grown members of your household.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I don’t advocate tossing your spouse’s high school yearbooks or prized bottle cap collection (tempting as it may be). Ditto for the knitting stash and dusty sports gear. Sentimental and hobby items are sticky wickets, and messing with them can get you into trouble.

But if your partner is the type that will become hopelessly attached to the duplicate stapler the moment he/she lays eyes on it, I think you’re justified in making some executive decisions.

The best candidates for stealth decluttering:

• Broken stuff. Nobody can fault you for tossing something that doesn’t work—especially if it hasn’t worked in a long time. If there’s no motivation or intention to fix it, let it go; obviously, it hasn’t been that essential to the workings of your household.

• Mundane stuff. These are the things that can be replaced easily and inexpensively in the remote chance that they’re missed. Many of these items have a tendency to multiply—pens, mugs, Tupperware, etc. Nobody is likely to notice if a few cups are missing, or if you pare down the stash of takeout chopsticks—except that it might be easier to close those drawers and cabinets.

• Children’s stuff. Give your kids the gift of space by eliminating the outgrown, the unloved, and the non-essential from their lives. Although I believe in encouraging children to give away their old stuff, you don’t need to run every castoff by them. It’s better for some things to disappear quietly. I stash questionable items in a “limbo” box for a few months, just in case they’re requested in the near future.

Your stuff. When it comes to your personal possessions, skip the PDD (public display of decluttering). Seeking validation from your partner may very well backfire (“You’re getting rid of that after paying so much for it?!”) and break your resolve.

My opinion: when done right, stealth decluttering isn’t an act of duplicity, it’s an act of kindness. We’re keeping our households clear, pleasant, and spacious without burdening our loved ones with the task (especially those who may genuinely struggle with such decisions).

(I should note that I don’t need to employ this with my husband, as he’s as minimalist as I am–and he’s more than welcome to do some stealth decluttering of his own. ;-) )

So let’s come clean in the Comments—do you ever declutter on the QT?

{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.}