Falling into Minimalism: How I Became an Accidental Minimalist

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Farnoosh Brock of Prolific Living.

minimalism

“He who would travel happily must travel light.” —Antoine de St. Exupery

The Case Against Minimalism

When I first heard about minimalism, I became very defensive. I wanted to ‘protect’ my material world. “No thank you, I love my stuff. I’ve worked hard for years to accumulate every single piece. And I’m planning to hold on to them!” That’s what I silently said in response.

I salute all of you advanced minimalists out there but the idea of a minimalist lifestyle and a small home terrified me. And so I promptly forgot about it and went about my business.

Except that I couldn’t forget. Minimalism was happening all around me. The personal growth world had gotten hold of this notion of “less is more” and was not about to let go anytime soon. Becoming a minimalist was the latest trend and the biggest buzz in town!

And that terrified me even more. I started to grow “allergic” to the word minimalism and avoided anything and everything about becoming a minimalist.

But at least I felt safe and protected in my home. Until, that is, my husband picked up on the trend and was soon sharing his new ideas on how minimalism would revolutionize our lives.

“We don’t need to collect any more stuff, honey! We should now focus on collecting memorable life experiences instead. That’s what lives in our hearts and travels to the end of time with us. You know?”

Huh?

That’s very romantic, babe, I thought to myself, but I still want what I want which is swimming in a big fat shiny material world and nobody was going to change my mind about it, not even my soul-mate.

So it was obviously time to take out the big guns and put up my big guard against this whole minimalism business.

I had to protect myself. Everyone, it seemed, was out to strip me from my cherished, material things and to convince me that shopping for new clothes, beautiful shoes, and fancy makeup was a waste of time and money. And I wasn’t about to have any of that.

Becoming an Accidental Minimalist

And then something very peculiar happened.

My good friends Dan and Vanessa launched a podcast called Simple life Together and I innocently tuned in. The idea of simple living drew me in like a magnet. It didn’t scare me like minimalism – in fact, initially, I didn’t draw the connection between the two at all.

I totally embraced this simple living concept. I started organizing my closets, donating my books and going paperless, and I loved it. And for some strange reason, my husband couldn’t be happier! “Thank you Dan and Vanessa” he would say over and over!

Then a few months later, I was vacationing in Chile and naturally, we went shopping. Or maybe I persuaded my hubby to take me shopping, I can’t remember which. Anyway, here I was, in this gorgeous shopping mall in the heart of Santiago, and I couldn’t bring myself to buy anything!

This resistance to shopping persisted to the very end of our trip and I left Chile without buying a single thing—which in my book is seriously abnormal. But I comforted myself. I was saving up for Istanbul, I reasoned, which was going to be my big shopping spree of the decade!

And to my utter shock, the same thing happened during my Istanbul trip. I was in the middle of the Grand Bazaar in the heart of one of the greatest cities in the Middle East, with money and time… and absolutely zero desire to shop.

On several occasions, I came ridiculously close to buying something following a bout of negotiation even my Dad would be proud of. But then I would just lose interest and have no desire to go through with the transaction.

I can’t tell you how baffling this felt. It felt as if I had traded my old self with someone else and I was watching in horror what this new person was doing, and wondering what on earth had happened to my old self.

Just for good measure, when I came home, I drove by myself to pick up some make-up. Nobody to bother me or to rush me. Nowhere to be but in the aisles of makeup after makeup with a long shopping list. All the time in the world to choose gorgeous new expensive makeup … and I walked out with a tiny lipstick!

That, dear friends, is how I became an accidental minimalist!

Your Inner Voice on Minimalism

I admit, it feels strange when a subconscious part of you drives your behavior and messes around with your inner desires. But it also feels good. And right to some extent. That subconscious part is our inner wisdom guiding us gently toward the best decisions of life as long as we listen and pay attention.

I am so glad I listened.

I did not intend for any of this to happen.

In fact, I had every intention to shop, to buy, to spend, and yet when push came to shove, I had lost all interest in doing so.

And now I get it. It feels good. It feels good to not buy, to not shop, and to not worry about what to buy and where to shop and instead, to simply go without. In fact, it feels better than what you feel an hour or a day after you buy something, you know, the low after you’ve come down from the high of shopping, the unfulfilled desire nudging you to go out and shop some more to feel better, the never-ending cycle of high-low from never quite having bought enough.

So for now, I am letting this accidental path take me along. Now, I can finally appreciate living simpler, living with less, and being all the better off as a result.

Now I understand the irony that our stuff, which was supposed to bring us happiness and joy, finds a sneaky way of trapping us. And our freedom, which we cherish and protect so much, gets silently trapped in all the mess.

Unless we pay attention because true freedom, it turns out, is in the intangibles that we can’t see or touch but feel. The stuff that we can’t put on shelves, but we can put in our hearts. And there, it can stay safely for a long time without taking up much space at all.

So I have lowered my guard, I have accepted the truth of this higher self which apparently knows me so well, and while I am far from calling myself one, I can honestly say that I am loving the path of becoming a minimalist.

What about you? How did you fall into minimalism? Was it with intention? Or do you have an accidental story to share? Let us know in the comments!

***

Farnoosh Brock left a 12-year corporate career to start her own company, Prolific Living Inc. She is the author of several books including her latest, The Healthy Juicer’s Bible. You can also find her on Twitter or at her weekly podcast, The Daily Interaction.

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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Comments

  1. says

    I couldn’t take my eyes off of your post! My journey into minimalism was a mix, I had just moved across the world and tried to ship and carry every little thing that I thought would make me happy in my new home. When I got here I was very unhappy at first and having a hard time with the transition. I was overwhelmed with the move and was surfing the web and somehow came across minimalism blogs like this one. I looked at everything I had packed and the little I was living off of at my inlaws while searching for an apartment of our own and thought “I don’t even know what is in the rest of my luggage and boxes….wow”. And thus my journey began to live with less. We are about to do another international move, but this time with zero shipping boxes, and hopefully each suitcase will be within the weight limit! Wish me luck!

    • says

      You are a brave soul, Dana, but I do know how you feel. What do I even need this stuff for, we wonder, when we haven’t looked at it for years …. plus you are truly out to gain life experiences. Wonderful story and thanks so much for reading. Joshua’s blog is addictive and I’m so happy he published my accidental minimalism story! Happy and LIGHT travels to you, Dana.

  2. says

    Thanks for the great guest post. I can relate well to the accidental change in my way of thinking. I didn’t set out to spend less and give more. It was a gradual process and is still in progress. I can’t really identify and event or specific exposure. I do know getting rid of excess and clutter- at physical and cognitive levels- feels good for the long haul :)

    • says

      Karen, so glad I’m not alone on this accidental gradual path. And yes, it only feel GOOD, really good, whenever I declutter any part of the house or walk out of the store without buying anything. Who knows why that is but it is what it is! :) Glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. Padmini Ram says

    Lovely post! Yes, my story is similar. It was by accident. Growing up I had always believed that having a well furnished nice house was a sign of being a grown up, having reached. However, life had different plans for us. While I did furnish our first rental one bedroom all my myself, got lots of praises on a job well done, it was time to move on. We had to sell off all that when we moved from USA to UK. My husband is a consultant and we move quite often so we decided it was practical to live in furnished apartments. That one decision meant so much more freedom, and I loved it. I feel like every few years we get to live in a completely new decor, and collect life experiences by travelling rather that being tied to one place. I am always very thrifty, but I could so relate to your shopping trips and losing the desire to shop.

    • says

      Hi Padmini, I love love the similarity of stories here. And you get to enjoy all the material without owning it which is really the best of both worlds. Enjoy it tremendously and let’s see where this minimalism and no desire to shop takes us! So glad you stopped by.

  4. Jeanie says

    I must admit, I chuckled inside when I heard you wrote about becoming minimalist. :)

    Things are different when the turtle’s shell is smaller–a backpack, a car.

    My minimalism journey started with a bang! I became convinced that I couldn’t afford a home base AND all the travel I wanted, so I shed, shed, shed all the stuff holding me back from it. Eventually I wound up with a trunk and backseat’s worth of stuff in a Civic. Chucked the job, the boyfriend, the home state, too.

    What I’ve gained? Precious connections with people, a husband, and a sharper sense of purpose, despite the slow crawl toward my misty dream life. In hindsight, perhaps I should have planned better, as I miss having a variety of clothes!

    The Kindle is the ultimate tool for a book lover to become minimalist, but I’m glad Gene has a lot of books for me to read. ;)

    • says

      You chuckled? You should’ve laughed out loud. ;) I don’t blame ya, Jeanie and I remember every part of your journey since our meeting at NMX in 2010! Oh I have not gotten rid of too many of my clothes yet but I’ve stopped buying – and I am in love with my electronics. It’s lovely to see you here. I am so happy you found this much happiness along the way, Jeanie. Few deserve it more than you honey!

    • Amy U says

      I like how you describe it as a “slow crawl”. I think I expect to become minimalist (in reality, not just in my mind) quicker than I am. I’m good on the lack of shopping—check. But cleaning out my life is far slower than I wish it to be. I have 2 kids, ages 8 & 10 (which is part of my inspiration—to show them that experiences matter more than “stuff”) but sometimes I feel like the time I spend “cleaning out” takes away from our lives, too. We moved a little over 2 years ago. I decided that I would go through every single box & belonging and none would just “hit the attic”, unscathed. Great plan then, but it’s left me with more crap lying around than I care for. I’m thorough in my cleaning out, reflecting the perfectionist part of my personality. Pre-kids, I had more time for stuff like this. Now, there’s always parenting-dutes, laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning—-you get the picture. I donate a lot, but other things I set aside to sell—-I use the money for “major” household purchases……buying myself & my son a desk thus far & saving to buy my daughter a desk, too. I enjoy being able to make these meaningful contributions to our household, am proud of my ability to save and not fritter away the money on meaningless, unnecessary “stuff”. i.e.—I get something from it. It does strike me from time to time, though, “what if I could just have it ALL leave the house when it serves out it’s usefullness?”. For the most part, I do 2 consignment sales/year. I have a space set aside in our storage for a couple of boxes of things to sell. When sale time comes, I pull out the boxes.
      Just wish either (1) it would all happen faster or (2) I could be more patient with myself & appreciate what I’ve accomplished so far.

      • Amy U says

        btw—when I refer to the “perfectionist” part of my personality, it’s not really with appreciation for that quality. :o)
        & when I refer to not shopping, that’s HUGE!!! A large part of where I’m at (i.e. too much stuff) is due to my former-self’s shopping habit—-stores, goodwill, garage sales, consignment sales. Now, if I sell at a consignment sale, I NEVER shop at them. It’s freeing.

  5. says

    This happened to me after a divorce. I guess not by choice. I moved from a 5,000 square foot home with three out buildings and a vacation home into an 1100 square foot row house that was built in 1866. Built in 1866 as in – no closets. Because people didn’t need them. Two years on, I’m still dropping stuff at Good Will every weekend. Each layer of material stuff I scrape off and give away is a layer of items I thought (at one time) I couldn’t live without. Then I give it away and never think about it again. Like you, I go shopping and I just can’t be bothered. My favorite and only summer shirt is a shirt I paid $20 for five years ago, most of my clothes are fitness wear since that’s what I spend my day wearing, and I have a few dresses to throw on for work or when I need to look put together. I told an old friend that I only have five pairs of shoes right now (three of them are gym shoes) and she was shocked. I used to have more than 100. I think she’s worried about me, honestly. And sometimes I feel like I should probably have more options but then I muddle through on my plain old clothes and no one else seems to notice and it’s fine.

    • says

      Hi Heidi, thanks for sharing your story – by necessity it seems, you came to embrace minimalism and that’s the right word: “bothered” – I just don’t want to be bothered. You’re so right. And way to go on the fitness. I can live out of my yoga clothes all year long! :) Thanks so much for stopping by to give us such amazing perspective.

  6. says

    Thanks for this amazing story – I am always happy when one more person falls into the the minimalism ‘trap’. Soon the whole world will be living for the present moment, and not for something they can purchase in the future. I myself had started the minimalist journey 6 years ago, when I wanted to go travelling, but I couldn’t imagine carrying everything I own in my backpack – I realized then I need to pare down. Now, my partner and I are going to South America for a year, and we couldn’t be happier with owning just enough to fit into two backpacks.

    • says

      Oh you are way ahead of me but travel is another way that you can embrace minimalism because when I am away from home, I am surviving just fine out of my suitcase, save for a few small things. South America: You’ll have a great time and simplify even further along the way. Safe travels!

  7. Dree says

    Glad to find a fellow accidentalist.
    After going through a very painful divorce after only 5 years of marriage, I needed to move and learn how to once again live as a single woman. I realized how much I had acquired in 5 short years as soon as the moving truck was loaded. Only my half of the house possessions took up an entire moving truck filled to the top. Sheesh! That’s when it hit me. I have entirely too many things in my life and they have done me very little good other than to be a headache when needing to move. My new residence is much smaller which necessitated less stuff but I really liked the feeling I got from letting things go. It was freeing, liberating, and a part of my personal healing. I never thought things had a hold on me until I started to free myself from the material world I had created. My life has utterly changed and just like you, I found myself having no desire to shop. My family told me it was just a part of my current situation. They have seen the permanency now a year later and know where my priorities and value lie, not in things but in people and experiences with them. That is the real treasure.

    • says

      Experience creates the necessity, Dree, and you’ve done beautifully to adjust to it. Coming out of a painful experience could not have been easy, and I really hope simplicity has brought you a lot of joy and peace to make up for it all….. families have a hard time understanding our radical changes but we’ve gotta love them and share it with them in tiny bites until they come around :)! Thanks for sharing!!!

  8. Kaci Higgins says

    Awesome post! I too accidentally fell into minimalism. My journey started due to my health. I was so tired of having to ask my family to clean this, organize that, deal with this or that, etc because I was unable to. I realized that if we just got rid of so many uneeded things then life would be simpler! It worked!! Less really is more, more snuggles, more kisses, more reading, more listening, more joy! Blessing to you in your journey :)

    • says

      Kaci, I love it – so many accidental minimalists here….. Such logic indeed. Less stuff, more time for you and less time cleaning!! My favorite: “MORE READING” – Oh I am in love with reading. Thank you and blessings in return to you, Kaci.

  9. says

    Hello,
    Thank you for your article.
    I am 36 years old and have been living without many possessions most of my life. I have an itch to always move around. It seems every time I collect things I end up just selling them off and moving again. However, sometimes I struggle with being in my thirties and not owning more things. This sometimes leads to me feeling unaccomplished, but I have come to a new found appreciation for how I live my life. I am moving to Hawaii in one month and this time the process of getting rid of my possessions feels extremely cleansing. Thank you!

    • says

      Oh the association of “things” to accomplishments, Brenda, I hear you. In my Iranian culture, things are the measure of accomplishment, believe it or not. It’s not a very healthy approach and definitely not very accurate way to measure our life’s accomplishments. Hawaii: I call it paradise on earth. I’ve been there 5 times and I still yearn to return. ENJOY it! You will have the best stretch of the Pacific and a place that makes you forget about “stuff” in a hot minute. A wee bit envious ;)!

  10. Sally says

    OMG what a wonderful post! I’m still way towards the beginning of the path of becoming minimalist, but it so appeals to me, and I’m cleaning out my stuff slowly and daily. One of the biggest changes I’m noticing is that I no longer have a desire to shop! My house is full of stuff that I thought I had to have at the time or that were gifts, and it no longer feels like anything but a weight on my soul. So slowly I’m donating and getting rid of. It won’t happen overnight, but it is moving that way, and I feel freer every day. I apply the same mindset to eating…less is more, and that one I’ve known for a very long time. Your story rings true to me because that’s how I accidentally stumbled onto minimalism as well, not through friends with a blog but rather with reading lots of different things and feeling them speak to my heart and letting them speak to my heart and discovering through that that there was a sameness of simplicity that ran through all the things I was drawn to. Thank you!

    • says

      Sally, go slow, go so so very slow and at your own perfect pace, and you will really enjoy the journey even more. It’s also easier on you because drastic changes can leave a false sense of regret say if you were to get rid of it all tomorrow….. and blogs help. This one is one of the best, Joshua has done a remarkable job so come back a lot and wishing you the very best, Sally.

  11. says

    Thank you for a fantastic post.
    I think I’ve been a minimalist at heart since I was a child. The rest of our home was always untidy & a bit chaotic, so I kept my room neat & I didn’t have that many possessions. I think that I find too much stuff visually distracting & busy on the eyes. I’m just about to embark on a declutter/simplify project of all my belongings & I can’t wait to see how much I get rid of :)

  12. ~Simply dor says

    Here’s my story ~ ;)
    I’m 47, married 23 yrs this Dec :) & hv 2 kids 21 & 17-1/2 yrs old.
    I’ve always lived a Simple life, not being into Material Things Except my Handbags. I’ve Loved Handbags since I could walk. & they weren’t Really Name brand until Late 80′s Liz Claiborne then 90′s my Hubby got me a duck Purse ( Dooney & Bourke ) then after I heard he paid $209 for it ( I had already been using it for a week so too late to take bk :( )
    I started thinking of All the Diapers n things I could hv bought with that :(( anyways since the 90′s now I only get a handbag if I get B-day or CHRISTmas $ or I sell a Bag to get 1 :)
    & it has to be on Sale or from 2nd hand or Consignment or EBay & then. I must Sell 1 that I hv at Hm :) 1 in 1 out :)
    I’ve always bought Clothes n things at Garage Sales & Thrift & Dept stores Clearance Racks…. & hv not been into Name Brands just want Nice Decent looking clothes but don’t wanna pay an arm n a leg for them :) most of my House is furnished this way or Hand me downs.
    I’ve always felt this way ….I just don’t need alot of Stuff I don’t like Clutter at All & I Hate to DUST I don’t why, but its something I Really can’t stand to do :) & I do t like to spend alot of $ on something that’s not a needed item or that I could get similar at a garage sale or thrift or trade something for (eBay)
    This last Thanksgiving 11/2012 I was standing inline @Target (Black Friday Sale) to get me a $49 Steam Mop & a few $3 & $4 DVDs for CHRISTmas gifts that’s a BIG Savings :) while standing there for 2-1/2 -3 hrs I started chatting with this YOUNG COUPLE :) (I’m old enough to be their Big Sister ) they were only there for a few Clothes & a game for their Children then said they were Minimalists…. I smiled & Felt so Stupid , but I asked them what’s a Minimalist I’ve never heard of that …. & they told me what it was I was standing there thinking WOW ! I’ve been this almost All of my Life … & never knew there was a Name for it …. So since then I was so taken back by this that I’ve been looking for more Ways to be More of a Minimalist :) I’m pretty much there tho. I’m really comfortable where I’m at right now. we already hv a Sm House 1140 sq ft :/ I DO wish my living room & Kitchen were open to each ther so I could visit with family when I’m cooking during the Holidays. But it’s Home, & I’ve raised 2 Beautiful Kids in with the Grace of GOD !
    & still Looking for more ways to be minimalist all the Time . I’m not a Extreme only 100 things or 1 suitcase Minimalist ….. But I’m Just ME ! Simply dor :)

    • says

      Hi Simply Dor, I love your story…….You’ve been a minimalist and didn’t know it. That’s a great story! And now you are claiming that title, I see. Thanks for sharing – you were born that way already….may you continue exploring your own path! I’m up for the journey, that’s for sure!

  13. says

    Great post! This is my favorite line: “our stuff, which was supposed to bring us happiness and joy, finds a sneaky way of trapping us.” So very true.

  14. Anna says

    I am just recently (last few months) getting into reading about minimalism. It’s not so much that I want to be a minimalist, but I like the philosophys that it has. I know there is more extreme minimalist (have 100 things), but I just love the idea of less is more. I am expecting my 4th child next month, so it hasn’t been easy to really get into decluttering and deep cleaning. But I have gotten rid of a lot of stuff here and there.

    I love reading blogs and books about it, because even though I will probalby never be a true minimalist, I love the way I feel after reading about it. I feel like it’s okay to get rid of stuff (like things that were given as gifts that you no longer want), it’s okay to get rid of something instead of “what if I need it someday” (which of course, then you buy it someday). I also feel like I’m doing a little better with the whole “do I really need it or should I wait and see if I need/want it in the future?”

    And bonus: I know have a couple more blogs to follow from reading this post. Thanks.

    • says

      Anna, I totally know what you mean – the idea behind it is alluring … a simple life! Less is More! And congratulations. Wow, that has got to be hard to do with kids. Asking the questions is where it all started. You’ll be just fine! Wishing you a lot of fun as you move forth on your journey….
      Be sure to check out Joshua’s books, he has wonderful ones on this very topic….

  15. says

    Five years ago I would have laughed if someone suggested I become minimalist. No way! I like my stuff. I want more! The simple living path spoke to me first. I liked the idea of slowing down and becoming less busy so I started to experiment with simplifying. Along the way, I realized that owning a lot of stuff was making things more complicated than I wanted them to be. I gradually started cutting back on shopping and also decluttered a good portion of my house. I love the freedom I have found from owning less. These days I like to think about how I can become more minimalist in my ways. Thank you for the post and good luck on your minimalist journey.

    • says

      Seriously, Karla, I would have laughed at that a few months ago!! The freedom is really liberating and encouraging for even more minimalism, isn’t it? You are so right. I am wishing you the very best too. It’s great when it happens to us naturally… :)

  16. says

    My journey into minimalism was kinda easy. I was married to a cranky guy that would get mad and brake all my stuff. After some time I ran out of stuff and wasn’t going to waste money buying more stuff for him to brake. We are no longer together but I don’t really buy a lot of new stuff. Mostly thrift store if I really need something. If I happen to buy something at a “REAL” store I will sit in my car for like 1hr crying about how I don’t need it and should just return it now.
    Fun times in my head.. :0)
    Peace (0:

    • ~Simply dor says

      Im sorry for your loss of your things, But they were Just THINGS & not YOU !
      You are here TODAY !
      & THAT is way MORE IMPORTANT than THINGS ;)

    • says

      Angie, I’m sorry to hear that :( But now that you are out of that relationship, you can establish new associations with your own stuff and I hope you can sort through the confusion of buying/not-buying. Make it fun, not torture, my dear, and this is a process…..You will come through a winner. I just know it.

      • says

        Thanks you but I’m not sorry about any of it. I would rather make something then buy something, and that is my torture.. lol
        I love it and I am so glad I made it out of that time in my life, but wouldn’t change one bit of it. Without it I would be the person I am today. Yes, I am a bit crazy :0) but I like me that way.. (0:
        Peace

  17. says

    Oh, Farnoosh, what a fabulous story you have shared with us. For me, I have had quasi-minimalistic thoughts since my teens, but had them squeezed out of me by family, friends and the status quo. Finally, in my mid thirties, I discovered minimalism and simple living simultaneously, and have not looked back since. I love that I have no desire to shop and that I am now so focussed on creating, rather than consuming.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Mark

    • says

      Mark, I took a peak at your blog. It’s nice to do this as a couple and to find out what’s beyond the consumption. Glad my story spoke to you and happy simple living to both of us :)!

  18. says

    Farnoosh,

    What a great fall into simple living! I too (very recently) left my corporate job of 12 years to travel Europe this summer and then move to Bay Area to own my own business – to live a more inspired life. However, before coming to Europe, my boyfriend and I had to smoosh everything we owned into 2 small storage pods which enables us to live rent free for the 2 months we are here in Europe.

    This is when the Grand Elimination began for me.

    I’ve lived in 1 bedroom apartments since college and luckily have not amassed the large amount of stuff homeowners usually have – but I still had a lot of stuff. It took 2 full weeks (truly my new FT job since I had already left my corporate one) to go through, clean out and donate more than half of my belongings – quite a painful process.

    The hardest thing to accept was not parting with my “beloved” free clothes or hand-me-down furniture I’ve received through the years. It was actually calculating the $3,000+ amount of things I’ve purchased for a couple of uses here and there, but ultimately had to give away. That could be another trip to Europe!

    After all of this, I am committed to the 1 in, 1 out system my mom tried to teach me long ago – if I buy something then another thing I own has to go. And as a result, my desire to buy things over here in Europe have decreased as well – Just as you have experienced as well.

    Thanks again for sharing this experience!

    Best,
    Paula

    • says

      Paula, I too left my corporate job of 12 years in 2011!! Similar paths. :) And of course if you recall, minimalism is not very rampant in the corporate world …. I only remember my colleagues buying MORE – more boats, more houses, more cars, more and more ….. I love that you are living for experience now and I used to come to the Bay Area every month from the east coast. I don’t miss the corporate stuff but I do miss that area. Wishing you the best. Great rule by the way – I might have to start following. Wise Mom :)!

  19. says

    I grew up in a cluttered, junk riddled household (not even interesting junk) and it stressed me out so much that my teenage rebellion was to avoid clutter and try and live with less stuff.I must have been the only teenager in the world to be yelled at for tidying.

  20. says

    For me it was one word: College. I took two extra years to get through, never lived in the same dorm building or college owned apartment two years in a row, and I had a bunch of clothes and a massive library.

    After graduating I culled my library massively, and donated most of my wardrobe. Since graduating the only material stuff I’ve bought beyond necessities (food, toiletries, etc), and probably more books than I should have, were a yoga mat, blanket, and bolster. I’m planning to pick up a pair of yoga blocks and a strap, but there’s not really that much I need.

    • says

      Frank, what a young minimalist. You could have taught my old college self a thing or two. Way to go. And glad we share the passion of yoga too. Enjoy your simple and perfect path – it’s a wise one!

  21. says

    I live in Southern Alberta where we have experience one of our worst natural disasters in our history. A massive flood that evacuated an entire town of 13000. Stuff is covered in mud and being thrown out by the ton! I bet some people are breathing a sigh of relief that they can now “let go” of some of the things they’ve been saving. Although our home is high and dry, both my husband and I have the urge to purge.

    • says

      Sorry to hear that Karen. So sorry :(( I suppose that is one side of the matter, but it’s still a sad one. But the urge to purge is a good one. Follow it through!

    • Joanna Wong says

      May be it is a good time to donate all the things that you do not need to those that were affected and need them. Win/win :-)

    • says

      You are not serious? You can fit everything you own into a CHECKED luggage on an airplane? I’ll never be there but I salute you, Jonathan. But I’m mad about travel too! :)

  22. Shlomo says

    Minimalism is always better when it is an option. For many, it is a way of life that borders on subsistence and poverty. So, as you refrain from unnecessary purchasing while abroad in exotic locales, remember there are many for whom ‘minimalism’ comes down to the choice between medication or food.

    Minimalism as a choice, although trendy, is nonetheless commendable and I, too, seek its rewards. While attending a family function, my daughter described me as a ‘minimalist’, to which i replied “Well. Not so much. This was all your mother left me!”

    • says

      Shlomo, that is totally and completely implied. It is a choice and an option that we decide to do, not a situation forced on us and having lived in some poverty during our immigration from Iran, I can relate.

  23. Selina says

    I am at the start of my minimlist journey as stuff seems to run my life and suck up my time. I doubt very much I am going to be an accidental minimalist, perhaps it is how it will look in a few years time. Right now it feels like climbing Everest. It is so hard to do with a young family and a ratpack husband. I dream of simplicity and less stuff! layer by layer i hope to get there

    • says

      Hi Selina, you are the intentional minimalist and I think that’s wonderful. And dreaming and first steps are how we all get started. I have no doubt you will peel off all those layers, my dear. All the best….

  24. says

    Hi Farnoosh,

    This is such a great post! I didn’t consider myself a minimalist since I’m not a big fan of – isms :-) but as I kept reading, I realized I am one. Like many of others here, it began accidentally. I moved to live alone after a long time and in the process of moving, simply threw away many stuff, mostly clothes. Since my family lives in the old apartment, I also left some things there, including piles of books, with the intention to pick them up later – but never did. I simply lost the need to own them ( and I confess that I discovered Kindle after long time avoidance). Now my place is so neat and floors are free except the necessary furniture that was already here since I rent the place. I’ve never had so little clothes in my life and I’m fine with it.

    I noticed how minimalist your yoga room is and, as a pianist, couldn’t take my eyes off of that beautiful, black upright piano on the right. As I was doing yoga with you, all I could think of was how does it sound :-) I hope you are playing and enjoying it!

    • says

      Hi Diana, tell me about it…. me too. I do love your story and so glad that you are happy with the results you are experiencing.
      Did you watch one of my yoga videos? That’s my hubby’s piano. He’s the musician. I just goof off on my yoga mat ;)!

  25. says

    It’s really interesting to hear about those who try and force themselves to purchase something, making it seem as though there is something wrong with them if they can’t.

    I find it really inspiring to hear those who fell into this lifestyle. Sometimes the best things happen by chance, and you really weren’t expecting them to. You aren’t pushed so you take your time and adapt it to your needs and those around you. I also salute you on your courage to go against not only the people in mainstream culture, but also your own self. Most people don’t want to challenge themselves and try new things because it just takes too much effort in this drive though world. It has also taken me some time to accept that I won’t be like most of my other friends who in their early twenties eat out a couple times a week and buy all those life necessities. But to each his own!

  26. Cat says

    Minimalism has always been in my heart. The older I have gotten the more I have realized the importance of being who I am….it is freedom! Just recently, I have truly begun to embrace who I have always been!

  27. Karen Liller says

    Thank you very much for your article. Yes, it is a strange realization and coming to terms when you find that less is more. … and it just keeps on going. :) But I find I have to be careful not to make de-cluttering and living with less “my life” (it’s easy for it to become such a passion that it becomes the main focus or all spends time doing), but a part of my life, the way I live and continual improvement of my life. Pacing oneself after the first big push allows for continued gratification in the act of simplifying. Strangely, I find I become impatient in it and want to be done with it so that I can move on to something else. Then I remind myself that the rest of my life is waiting for me and that balance is the key.

    Karen

  28. says

    For me it’s having a toddler who is capable of finding everything I try to hide from her and turning our apartment into chaos within 5-10 mins from the time she opens her eyes in the morning. I am just sick of cleaning up, dusting and organizing and have no time for that anymore after having a kid. I don’t think I wana waste my precious ME time organizing junk that costs me space and money. Granted we do have a lot of toys and stuffed animals and a lot of toddler clothes but most of them are hand-me-down or gifts from my parents and friends.

  29. David says

    I spent 10 years as a professional sailor, I could, and frequently did, carry everything I owned for that entire decade.

    I’ve never become reconciled to life ashore – I feel oppressed by possessions, they own me. I have an apartment on one coast, a house on the other, both full of stuff. Yuck.

    I’d like to live with much less stuff, but my wife loves stuff. What to do?

    • says

      Understand David. It’s frustating for me too. Wife and I are pretty much retired but wife insists we pay a person to clean our house. Now housekeeper stays here 2 nights a week, eats our food and whatever toiletries and stuff she needs for her home.

  30. says

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  31. Janice says

    This happened to me but it was because of necessity, I lost my home and moved into a two bedroom apartment.stuff had to go. It broke my heart at first, but now I am choosing, happily, to part with “stuff” I used to feel was so important. I take stuff regularly to our locL Hospice Attic when they sell it to help Hospice. Even though it was not originally my choice, now I am embracing this life. I shop only for necessities and am much happier for it. Thank you for sharing this.

  32. Susan Limbaugh says

    I have embraced minimalism with a passion but now Cristmas is approaching and as before, I would shop till I dropped. My purchases will be considerably less and I do hate to disappoint my family and friends. How do I get rid of this guilt? Not too many of them realize how I have changed my lifestyle.

  33. Sylvia says

    I had always been a minimalist my whole life, as a child I shared a room w a messy sister, my part of room was bare her side messy. I can’t live any other way, but it makes life easy, I love it

  34. says

    I was listening to this highly regarded doctor yesterday about the “thrifty gene” concept. And he said our bodies were designed for thrift.

    One of those moments I almost fell out of my chair. Interesting how things tie together.

  35. says

    BTW, to all you that made comments, thank you so much.

    It’s inspiring not only to read an article, but to see so many others with their thoughtful ideas and own path to living with less.

  36. says

    It happened to me because I have a vacation apartment and very few items there; one pair of jeans, a few tops, a few pairs of shorts and a few bathing suits. I hate packing so I always make do with very little there. I discovered how much better it is not to have to think about what to wear. A few things, not many choices, easier!!

  37. Anita says

    <3 this…I can relate on so many levels…I remember the day so vividly (2010 Kentucky, sitting in my living room/reading) that I suddenly just knew I wanted to be a minimalist…it was such a spiritual/calming moment filled with so much clarity. Forever thankful for that day:)

  38. says

    I too kind of fell into minimalism by accident. I was living the prototypical American dream: house, cars, clothes, plenty of toys and electronics and I worked hard to pay for them. The more “stuff” I bought the more I had to work to maintain it and the less happy I became about it. So I started getting rid of things. It felt great! So I kept doing it.

    Now I live a semi-nomadic life of adventure and travel and have never been happier. I have so little “stuff” I can move with checked luggage on an airplane and I am still looking for ways to downsize. I discuss my journey and my travels on my website.

  39. GirlGoneGlobal says

    Falling into minimalism is the best thing that ever happened to me. I was in a marriage that was going sour while living in Florida. We had moved to Illinois and back to Florida with all our stuff in tow. It was expensive and a headache. After moving back to Florida, my husband wanted a boat, truck, motorcycle, and other large ticket and rather expensive toys to maintain. I had dreams of going to college and being the first person in my immediate family to do so. I also dreamt of having a small business and traveling. The stress of the payments due every month made me feel old and overwhelmed even though I was only 29 and weeks from turning 30. I knew deep down that my dreams would never come to fruition.

    One day I finally had a meltdown and the meltdown of sadness, stress, depression, and loneliness lasted for weeks. I cried for weeks on end. I finally mustered up the strength to leave my marriage and move back to Chicago. I sold everything one by one over a few months, without telling my ex of my intentions. Eventually all the loans were gone and we no longer had debt. I was free of the fear of financial ruin. I told him I was leaving as I packed my cat, clothes, computer, and my cookware, and I left for Chicago. I had $1300 to my name as I moved into a $625 one bedroom apartment that was walking distance to the train and bus, and a grocery store. I bought an air bed to sleep on for the first few months and a phone line for the internet. That was it. I was liberated.

    That was 9 years ago. Since then I earned an AA degree in Business Admin, BA in Urban Planning and Public Policy, and I have a teaching certificate from Cambridge to teach English as a second language. I started a business 5 years ago that I eventually managed from my iPad, which has allowed me to live in 3 other countries and travel to about 30. I am now speaking 3 languages and looking forward to a fourth. I sold my business 6 months ago and I’m still living abroad. The past three years I have been living out of a 65 liter backpack and I can’t remember what I still have in my apartment. My apartment in Chicago is furnished with quality but minimal furnishings, which works great for my sublet tenants.

    I’ll return to the US late this year to live out my dream of being a ski bum for a season in Colorado (actually snowboarding) after I finish my work in Brazil and travel for a few months in Africa.

    People tell me I’m lucky. I’m not lucky, I just took a long hard and honest look at my unhappiness and the distractions in my life – stuff and debt that comes with it. I took responsibility for the mess I was in and decided to take action.

    I have absolutely no regrets. And I never will. I live free.

  40. says

    Accidental Minimalist here…on my way to a life..MY life. After a ten year relationship ending I found myself in my own place preparing for Acupuncture School. Presently having a business and supporting myself with Body work I decided to go further and commit to a three year program of study. This program required some travel and I found myself there more than here. So after the first year a school friend offered me a bedroom so that I may devote more time to study. So I further downsized from home to apartment now to a bedroom. Returned back twice a week to work and back to school that became a five day commitment. My bedroom became my home and I discovered peace with less. My days were filled with study and work involving people with all kinds of illnesses and my only focus was this growth and study.
    I am a person who has owned 4 homes in my life. I have graduated and returned to my hometown and have begun practicing, I am a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. I have rented another room in a lovely home to get myself started again. I see so many people with so many things and in a way it makes me anxious partly because my ego still feels I should have more but my soul wants the freedom. So at this moment there is a struggle but I am aware of that struggle and in truth I feel better with less. I have far more time to give. more.

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