allison’s story

here at becoming minimalist, we have a special fondness for stories of people just beginning the minimalist journey. today, we’re posting allison’s story who shared her story with us through our share your story page.

I have been reading your blog for some time and I wanted to share my journey towards living a Minimalist lifestyle. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

I come from a long line of “pack-rats”. My mother was raised by my grandmother who lived through The Great Depression in Pittsburgh, PA. My Grandmother saved everything from my mom’s childhood which was possible as she had a 4th floor walk up attic. I remember as a child going up there and being occupied for hours. It was like a 1950’s time capsule. My grandma was also very frugal with her money and saved lots of items to reuse or repurpose. I really did learn some eco-friendly habits from her before anyone was concerned with the state of the environment.

Growing up, my mom’s house also had ample storage space and not unlike my grandma, my mom saved lots of stuff too. While living at home I had 4 shelves chock full of 30+ porcelain dolls that my grandma and mom had bought for me over the years. Looking back, I did admire their beauty but they never really did serve a purpose as I didn’t play with them as they were breakable and they just sat on the shelf collecting dust. I wish now that my grandma would have put that money into a college account for me as the dolls have been in my shed for the last 10 years.

While living in Pittsburgh, I too became a pack-rat and kept way too much stuff. I remember moving into my college dorm and had loads and loads of knickknacks, candles, stuffed animals, posters and junk that I really didn’t need in my dorm room. I graduated college, taught for a year in Pittsburgh and then headed west to Phoenix AZ. I love the sun and the heat but boy what a culture shock it was to me for the first few years. Houses didn’t have walk up attics, basements or much storage compared to houses back east. What would I do with all of my stuff?

The storage closet in my first apartment was stuffed full of all of my junk so full that there was not one square inch left! I ended up moving a few more times until I met my husband. He had a cute 2 bedroom house and I happy moved all my junk there. My husband would never admit to being a pack-rat but he is just like me. He collects vintage hot rod parts, auto parts and vintage drag racing memorabilia. At that time he also had a few different race cars and we went drag racing on the weekends. In his mind all the car parts were warranted as he needed extra and spare parts for his race cars. I reverted back to my childhood of all the time I spent in my grandma’s attic and began collecting and decorating our house in 50’s furniture and collectibles. We happily lived in our 2 bedroom “mansion”, as we called it, for 4 years until we decided that we needed more space and we also wanted a few kids.

We quickly found a larger 3 bedroom house with a huge yard, cool pool, and plenty of room for our stuff. Luckily for us this house was only a little over a mile from our old house as moving all of our stuff any further would have been nearly impossible. We happily settled in to our new house and 2 years later we adopted our 3 children. I remember just a few days before the children were to arrive. I was unpacking all of their stuff and cleaning out and rearranging our stuff to make room for them and I just felt this overwhelming panic and loss of control come over me. I felt like all of these things were suffocating and trapping me. I then started to clean out and donate a bunch of items that were broken, too small or not needed.

The kids arrived and in the past 3 years we have collected more stuff but not at the rate in which we were collecting items. Both my husband and I have been active sellers on Ebay for the last few years. My problem was that I didn’t want to sell items that I bought for that purpose. I found myself keeping things instead of parting with them.

This past year some things have drastically changed in my life. I have been practicing yoga for sometime but it really finally hit home to let go of things and your attachments to them. Right before Christmas I decided that the kids would only get what they really wanted instead of just buying a bunch of junk that they didn’t want or things that fall apart within two weeks. We had a very relaxing and simple Christmas this year with my daughter receiving a scooter, my youngest son a mountain bike and my oldest son a Nintendo DS. They were thrilled and are still just as happy with their gifts all these months later.

This past year I have also decided would be my last year teaching for awhile. I have taught for the last 11 years and I am burnt out not to mention it is becoming more and more difficult to be a teacher these days with budget cuts, unsupportive parents and administrators. We decided to buy a self-serve Laundromat in a small town about an hour north of Phoenix. This year has been difficult as we are constantly driving back and forth between Phoenix and the Laundromat.

My husband and I finally made the executive decision that we would move north at the end of this school year. I panicked at first and thought how would we ever move all of our stuff? By chance, I was searching for websites on Minimalism and came across this blog. Intrigued, I read all that I could about Minimalism on-line and went to the library and checked out a few books on Minimalism and simplicity. I am now making a conscious effort to clean out as our move up north quickly approaches. My mom has disapproved of my new minimalist lifestyle and has told me that I will miss my stuff and regret getting rid of it in the future. Thus far, I have had no regrets and feel free and much lighter than before.

We are enjoying our uncluttered and unstuffed spaces in the house and the kids love to just plop down on the carpet and play. I am having a huge yard sale and have continued to sell many of my collectibles on Ebay and Craigs list. I have always been “green” as my Grandma taught me long ago and continue to buy used items and to really consider if we really need the item. My kids have been great about cleaning out their old and unused toys and are excited to make a few dollars at the yard sale. I plan on donating items that we do not sell or quickly finding them a new owner.

I love my new simple lifestyle and I look forward to having many exciting adventures in the future. Adventures that are full of memories and void of more dust-collecting stuff.

Thank you for letting me share my journey to becoming a Minimalist and living a simpler life. I realize that this entry is lengthy however it has been helpful to me see how far I have come and realize how far I still need to go.

allison, may all your adventures be full of excitement and memories. thank you for sharing your story.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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    • di says

      What is essential?

      Consider a sofa bed, a week of clothes, one set of pans and dishes, a week of groceries, a cellphone/computer.

      If you change old habits, everything else in non-essential.

  1. says

    allison, thank you for sharing your great story. very inspiring and i too “come from a long line of pack-rats”.

    glad you’ve been enjoying your process of streamlining.

  2. says

    Thanks for sharing your story, Allison! Moving can be a great catalyst for minimalising your life. Best of luck on this new part of your life journey.

  3. says

    Go you! We moved, with 2 children and 2 dogs, from a 3 bedroom house to a 24 foot RV in 1990 – you can imagine how much stuff we needed to remove from our lives! We’ve never regretted it, and the children are now so much more selective, and appreciative, of the material stuff, as well as the people, in their lives. Good luck on your journey, Allison, and thank for sharing your story.

  4. says

    Very, very inspiring story. Thank you for sharing. I am also on a journey to get rid of all my stuff.

    One of current challenges is my comic books.

    When I was a kid I started collecting comic books and did so for about 6 years. I probably have about 3000 comic books thinking one day I would be rich. Well now, I just want them off of my hands and willing to give them away. And I will. :)

  5. Allison says

    Thanks for reading my story! I am happy to report that I just had a very successful yard sale on Saturday! I got rid of a ton of stuff and made an extra $100. I am using the money to plant a vegatable garden in the back yard at our new house. I find so much pleasure out of gardening and working in my yard. I would rather have a pleantiful vegetable garden than too much stuff in the house especially when the stuff is giving me less and less joy these days. I have more stuff to sell on Ebay this week and few things for Craigs list. Good luck everyone on your journey as well!

  6. says

    I love your story. My husband and I are starting a clean out of our house. Don’t know how minimalist we can become, but we will find out. Our kids have left home and our Grandparents have passed on and left boat loads of stuff that we are getting rid of. My mother also is not supportive. She says we are ruthless and don’t appreciate things. We do, we just don’t own those things and we no longer want to be the keepers. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Karen says

    I’ve also faced the disapproval of family and friends, and I wish I had good advice for how to handle it. Most of the time, I just express my gratitude for their love and concern, and I reiterate that I am happy and content with my choices.

    It becomes harder when relatives agitate on behalf of members of my household. My MIL is particularly good at creating drama with my oldest child regarding things we have discarded. It can be very upsetting for all involved.

    There is a great deal of misunderstanding, and I just try to practice patience where others are involved, knowing that we are all on our own paths.

    • di says

      If they’re really concerned, perhaps you should offer an appropriate gift list at birthdays and Xmas. It could include household items, gift certificates, money for a college fund, rent money. Ask for what you need and you may not need to discard.

  8. Allison says

    It is very difficult. My mom usually gets upset with me when I sell something of my grandma’s but I just can’t keep it all. My MIL on the other hand, wants me to get rid of practically everything I own. We were out of town last weekend and they were at our house. I sold my vintage 50’s sofas and the people wanted to pick them up while my in-laws were at the house. No problem with my in-laws and they agreed for the people to come pick up the sofas. My issues started with my MIL when she decided to offer my other collectibles and lamps to the people (for money of course) but the items were not for sale! I do have a large collection of 50’s lamps but I really love them and they are worth quite a bit of money. They are staying while I will get rid of other junk that I do not love as much. People, even if they are your family, really do just need to mind their own business and worry about themselves (my kindergarten teacher’s favorite quote and obvoiusly many adults have not learned how to myob!)

    • di says

      It’s one thing to inherit, but prior to giving things away, I usually ask others what would be of interest to them.

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