Here at Becoming Minimalist, we love sharing stories of regular people choosing to live a minimalist life. Today, we’re posting Daniel’s story who shared it with us through our share your story page.
I grew up in America with parents from a very traditional Korean background. My parents didn’t grow up with a lot, but they worked hard and tirelessly. They chased the ‘dream,’ immigrated to America, and became successful to American standards. However, they racked up debt and declared bankruptcy when I was a child, wrecking their credit and nearly their marriage. It was a long hard road to recovery but by the time I reached college, they had saved enough to help me and always took care of myself and my sister. Growing up in a rich neighborhood, however, their newly adopted frugal habits made me feel ‘deprived’ of posessions and money.
During college, I splurged on a lot of items with the money I earned at a part time job. I studied hard in school but it was a means to an end for a high paying job. I did a lot of research into fields of study to determine which area would yield me the highest relative salary to purchase more items and ‘compensate’ for living poorly. By my 3rd year of college I became severely depressed for various reasons and did not fully recover until after I graduated. It was a feed of my insecurity to find happiness in posessions that I believed would allow me to sell my image to others for approval. I had some wisdom shed on me through this period, however, I still managed to buy useless items and rack up debt when I secured my first job. I scoffed at managers who drove Hondas and even doubted whether I was in the right line of work (oil/gas) in that managers with 15+ years experience could be driving cars that weren’t $40k+. So I worked harder and harder to make an impression with the ultimate goal of securing a high salary even quicker. I developed a hoarding, pat rack mentality for money and belongings, hesitant to share or spend unless it was for myself.
Eventually, my plan worked and I secured a 1 year role in Australia for performing well. This is when the turnaround really came. My new salary only made me envision more how I would eventually purchase 2 cars, an oversized home and more in the next year. The culture and experience in Australia taught me a lot, however. As an expat, I was given a fully furnished luxury apartment with all sorts of utensils I didn’t know how to use in addition to a bloated salary, a car… everything – a young man’s dream come true, right? They however restricted what I could take upon my move to a very limited container, which is when I had to assess what I valued so highly back in America would accompany me temporarily in Autralia. All I could fit were my essentials of clothing, bicycle and misc things such as my camera. Knowing I would only be there a year, I began to realize what I valued and how a life surrounded in temporary luxury didn’t bring me any happiness but more stress – that someone would steal it, that it would have to be insured, maintained, etc… the year I was there essentially forced me not to buy anything new for myself because I would eventually move back to the States. What I did purchase I was forced to donate and let go of upon moving back. On top of that, the culture there does not have a ‘Joneses’ type of mentality to keep up with.. people are generally more content and happy with their posessions and simply enjoy being outside.
Upon my shift back to America, I came back to all the items I thought I had cared so much about. I hadn’t missed them after all. My eyes were opened wide to the strong marketing efforts in America to drive consumerism and fear into people to buy, buy, buy.. Without hesitation, I sold and donated my items such as SLR camera gear, clothes, an extensive cigar collection, books, DVDs.. I moved into a small apartment and only kept the essentials: a bed, clothes, cookware, computer and bicycle. This new approach has really compounded to affect other areas of my life that used to endorse an extravagent lifestyle. I eat healthier by cooking at home and taking my lunch to work, I cycle to work, I spend more time with my family, I freely donate money, weekends are spent enjoying hobbies and company – not running around maintaining things and tying up loose ends. I’m confidently happier, healthier, more energetic, hardly stressed… My meals are simple with raw unprocessed foods and my workouts are simple involving bicycle, body weight, kettlebells. Without spending to keep up with a rat race, I also have the financial padding now to take more risks in the future to travel rather than having an impending debt or mortgage looming over me, tying me to a job.. I have the option to chase my passion, which is the next step in my quest for minimalism.
As you’ve said, “be content with what you have, never with what you are” The adoption of that principle as an adage to life is the hardest part living in America. The beauty is once you’ve accepted it, the path to achieve ultimately is still rugged terrain, but give me that challenge over keeping up with the Joneses! I enjoy your blog very much.. please visit mine: This is Black.
Thank you for sharing your story with us Daniel. And good luck with your blog.