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 enjoyed receiving them.
After having 2 children before the age of 20, I set off to acquire the “things” required for me to achieve a middle-class lifestyle. My priority was to establish and own a home and fill it with items that I thought would show my success. I did not want to look like the stereotypical “teenage mother.”
As a result, I worked two jobs at a time for many years… toys, clothes, furniture and decorations were bought and then given away when I regularly changed my idea of what “theme” my house should be. Sometimes less than yearly, I would change my furniture, curtains etc. It was not uncommon for me to employ maid services to clean my stuff so that I could go out to earn more money to buy more stuff.
I brought my children gifts almost daily when I came home from work to the point where as I walked in the door they said “Hi Mom, what did you bring me” every day. Looking back I can see I was trying to buy happiness and I sure was not happy most of the time!
When my children were in Elementary school, the house I worked so hard for and all of the “stuff” in it burned to the ground due to an electrical fire. I quickly replaced the house and its contents and proceeded to spend the next several years repeating the cycle.
Shortly after, my youngest child graduated from high school – the exact same year my father was diagnosed with advanced Parkinson’s disease.
My father was a collector – some would say a hoarder – of electronics and machinery. He developed this habit throughout life and spent much of his time purchasing items at auctions and swap meets and storing them in his house, garage, and basement. When he became sicker and unable to do the things he used to, I traveled to his home 1100 miles away multiple times in a short span of time and with the help of my brother, his wife, and friends cleaned out several tons of his purchases from the basements and garages. Safety for him was a priority and this way of living was not safe.
During all this I began reflecting on the time he spent with his hobby of buying things. And more importantly, how most of it was just discarded so easily… taken away as if it had no importance. The money wasted and time invested seemed so sad, so heartbreaking.
This caused me to reflect on my own habits and the time I had already wasted. How much of my childrens’ childhood, which had ended that same year, had been wasted working to buy things and taking entire blocks of time to maintain it at their expense! I starting reading blogs to encourage me and motivate me to change my lifestyle and cure this deep sense of regret (Becoming Minimalist and Zen Habits being two of my favorite).
Over the last 6 months I have given away more than 70% of my “stuff.” I feel more peaceful and I have a long way to go even though people are amazed at the minimalist transformation, I can still get rid of more. My ultimate goal is to have nothing I don’t use or find wonderful by the Christmas season this year. The first step was to stop buying stuff!
I have helped others minimize during this journey and it keeps me strong. I feel liberated and free, soon I will sell my house and get something smaller so I can have a home base and travel. Life is short and I can’t take any possessions with me when I go. But I can leave my children with valuable memories instead of a bunch of useless material things!