A while back, Becoming Minimalist used to feature stories of readers and their specific personal journeys into minimalism… some of their stories even ended up in our book, Simplify. Their stories encouraged us, challenged us, and reminded us of the importance of the journey.
And even though we have long since ended the series, a number of stories have trickled in over the years as readers have stumbled across our Share Your Story page hidden deep in the archives. Some of the stories are too good to keep to ourselves. So we’ve decided to post five – one every day this week. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have.
I’m new to the idea of minimalism. I grew up in a house that was full of stuff — family heirlooms (especially furniture) from my great-great-grandmother, great-grandmother, and grandmother filled our house. When a family friend (who had no children) passed away in 2005, my mother was the one who took on the task of going through her things and selling the house. A lot of those things ended up coming to our house.
That isn’t to say we bought a lot of things. My mother was very frugal and stretched every dollar that came into our home. I wore hand-me-downs from her friends’ older daughters, and she wore the same jeans for well over a decade. We didn’t go on shopping sprees — things just came in and didn’t leave. It wasn’t the sort of thing you see on “Hoarders” or even “Clean House”, by any means, but it was still hard to clean with all that stuff around.
Fast forward 5 years:
At 25 (and single), I bought a 60-year-old, 1,200 sq ft house with two bedrooms, a large kitchen, roomy bathroom, and a beautiful living room that spanned the front of the house — 8 windows let in tons of natural light all day.
And then, as homeowners typically do, I proceeded to fill it – every room with more and more stuff.
When I was recalled to the Army for deployment, it took the movers over 4 hours to pack up my house. Tons of papers, left over from my 4 years in the Army and never shreded. Seventeen boxes containing some 600 books. Boxes and boxes of clothes, most of which were left from my “skinny” days 3 years earlier. Kitchen appliances and dishes that I almost never used… You get the idea.
I was embarrassed that one person had accumulated so much stuff and resolved to deal with it when I got home.
After spending a year dragging the excess stuff issued to me by the Army (3 duffel bags, one very large rolling duffel bag, and a large rucksack) through 5 different states and then to two different places in Afghanistan, I became more determined to simplify my life when I got home. Half of the stuff I’d been forced to haul around had never been used, and my living space was an 8 x 8 sq ft room. The deployment showed me how little I really need to get by, both in terms of stuff and in terms of space.
I returned home from Afghanistan in June 2011. At first, it was pretty easy. After moving into an apartment, my furniture consisted of a cot in the bedroom, a plastic tub I used as a table, and a folding chair. But then the movers brought my stuff. And it filled over half of my living room.
Slowly and deliberately I went through the boxes. I read It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh to bouy my resolve when it wavered.
It’s been six months now since I moved in, and I just unpacked the last box. I came across The Joy of Less and Inspiration to Declutter a few days ago. I’ve taken several bags of books that I’ll never read (or reread) to my favorite used bookstore for credit. I’ve parted with all but 6 of my absolute favorite Barbie dolls; the rest have either been listed on Amazon or donated to Goodwill. I’m going to tackle my closets (again) tonight.
I still have a long way to go, but with every box or bag that leaves the house, I feel happier and more free — and that alone is worth more than all the stuff in the world!