All I really want is a simple life.
I want to be outside in the sunshine and relax with a good book.
I want to work hard and feel like I’ve accomplished something each and every day.
I want to go on adventures with my kids and see their eyes light up when they discover something new or accomplish something they’ve never been able to before.
I want to feel at the end of each day that I’ve done something to make the world a better place by helping others.
My desire for this simple life has drawn me to the minimalism movement long before I knew it even existed.
WHAT STARTED MY MINIMALISM JOURNEY
In between growing up poor and the time I lived a multi-million dollar lifestyle as an expatriate in China, we were a very typical American family. We bought houses and cars and were constantly focused on upgrading our lives. You can read more about how my life in Shanghai shifted my mindset about money in that post here.
Even before I had that money epiphany, I had a realization that changed my life just as much or possibly even more.
When we moved to Shanghai, we did so with only two suitcases per person (eight total) plus two car seats and a stroller. In addition, we were given a few hundred dollars for “soft landing” purchases, specifically for things related to setting up our home like pillows, towels, and dishes until the bulk of our belongings made it to us. The home we moved into was furnished with a basic couch, dining table and beds. We had all the necessities.
It took approximately eight weeks for the 40-foot container of our belongings to be shipped across the ocean and go through Chinese customs.
Eight weeks of freedom from stuff.
It was during these weeks that I realized how much time and energy I had been spending in the past on stuff. Buying stuff. Organizing stuff. Cleaning stuff. Fixing stuff. Instead, I was able to spend more time with my kids, enjoy the sunshine at the park, read books and just relax.
My heart was telling me this:
Maybe the life you’ve always wanted is buried under everything you own.”
(Joshua Becker, The More of Less).
I can’t say that when our things arrived from the U.S. that I wasn’t excited. I was tired of wearing the same clothes and I wanted my hobby supplies. I can say, though, that I absolutely didn’t miss 99% of the things in that 40-foot container. I literally had a semi-truck full of things that weren’t really important to me.
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I FOUND MY “WHY”
This was the beginning of my journey toward minimalism, a path I’ve been on for over five years now. With each subsequent move, an additional move within Shanghai, then a move to Seoul, then a move back to the United States, I worked on donating or giving away things that we no longer needed.
Yet we still had a full 40-foot container when we moved back to the United States…so full that a couple things fell out of the back of it when they went to open it back up.
Around the time that I was moving back to the U.S., I discovered Becoming Minimalist. I found my “why” in my minimalism efforts and it made all the difference for me. It was there that I discovered the following definition of minimalism that I have gone back to again and again:
Minimalism is the intentional promotion of things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.”
After another nearly eight weeks waiting for my stuff to arrive from Asia and being reminded of how little those things were missed, I was determined when everything arrived that I would go through every single item that I unpacked and decide whether it provided value or should be removed.
This process was complicated by the fact that we were looking to buy another home and I knew that we would be moving yet again in the near future. Yes, that’s five moves in about five years! If you want to learn how to become a minimalist, just move a household full of junk around the world a few times. It will help you determine the things that you value.
Our 3-car garage was packed with boxes after that latest move this past summer and the upcoming Michigan winter motivated me to go through things as fast as I could so that I could park my car in the garage. In addition, the combination of a rainstorm and a garage door left slightly open really got me motivated to go through some boxes one week (you can see that a little in the picture below!).
I’ve stuck with my goal of going through each and every item that I unpack. It has taken hours upon hours and a lot of reflection about the things that I valued in the past and the things that I value now. It’s been an amazing process that has involved so much more than simply getting rid of things.
HOW MINIMALISM HAS CHANGED MY LIFE
My journey is still ongoing. I still have unpacked boxes lining my bedroom walls even a full nine months after we’ve officially moved in (my husband is not loving this mess). My garage doesn’t look that much better, except that my car can fit. I can’t go out and publicly declare myself a minimalist yet I suppose.
But I can tell you, without a doubt, that every second I’ve spent going through my belongings has multiplied many times over in saving me time and energy in every other aspect of my life.
Minimalism has been a change of perspective for me that helps me to create a life that I love.
The impact on my personal life is limitless, but I’ll provide five of the most defined benefits:
- I have more time to spend doing things that I love and less time doing meaningless tasks like cleaning and organizing things that I don’t even care about. I also save time not having to buy, repair or sell things that I don’t even need.
- I have a better ability to focus when I have less clutter around my home to distract me. I’m a very easily distracted person, so this is huge for me.
- I have much more gratitude for and take better care of the things I own when they are more limited.
- I have a greater sense of purpose in my life when I am less focused on physical things and more focused on the relationships and experiences that really matter.
- I am able to provide an example for my kids in showing them what is really important in life.
My financial life has also benefited from minimalism in the following ways:
- Buying fewer things means that I have more money to go toward my financial goals such as saving for travel and hobbies.
- Intentionally researching and buying things that last longer means that I spend less money in the long run (plus have more time!).
- I have more time to work on saving money and planning for the future, such as creating my own financial plan.
- We ended up purchasing a smaller home because we weren’t so focused on storage space and having more room for stuff. This results in lower heating and cooling bills and less buying things in general.
- Our financial stability has meant that we are able to give more to causes that we believe in and help others.
I’ve found that the more I get rid of things that I don’t value, the greater my contentment and the closer I get to my ideal life. It contributes to my personal happiness as well as saving me money, which also makes me happy.
If you think that minimalism is for those that want to live in tiny houses and wear the same clothes every day, you’re missing the benefits that it can bring to your life. You can be a minimalist in your own home right now in whatever season of life you’re currently in. It’s not about reducing your belongings to a bare minimum, but instead putting your values first and your stuff second.
How has the minimalist movement made an impact on your life?
I’m naturally frugal and minimalistic. I don’t buy things just to have them. I love it – when I start spending a bunch of money on stuff – I don’t feel any better!
Thanks for sharing, have a good weekend.
I had extremely frugal parents that taught me that it’s people and not things that matter. I wish it came a little more naturally to me!
Yes! I couldn’t agree more. This was like reading a journal entry haha. Nothing like moving and living abroad to completely change your perspective. It seems almost every culture except for the US values minimalism..at least from my tiny perspective ?
Let’s move abroad again and experience some new minimalist cultures? 😉
Minimalism has had an impact on my lifestyle, but it has not had an impact on my dreams and what I do.
I live a pretty simplistic life that alternates between work and sports (e.g. surfing). I’ve never been a big fan of going out, partying, going to social events, etc. I’ve always been an introvert.
However, being a minimalist doesn’t mean I don’t have lofty ambitions. I still want to be “insanely” rich one day through my business. I want a lot of money but not so that I can spend it on fancy toys.
I certainly don’t want to be a minimalist about wealth in general! I’ve always felt better about having money in the bank than things I can see. I completely agree with you!
I think you hit the nail on the head by saying that minimalism doesn’t mean living in a tiny house wearing the same thing over and over again. You can still be a minimalist and own a million items, provided they have a place in your life and don’t bring you any stress or anxiety over them. I love books and I have over 200 that I will never part with. But I still consider myself a minimalist because those books bring me so much joy and I love re-reading and collecting them.
To me, minimalism is about ridding yourself of unnecessary stress and anxiety whilst cherishing things that bring you joy – and that can include material possessions.
Yes! Moving/unpacking really helped me to see which of those things I cherished. I love my book collection as well, although not as big as yours.
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