Why I Am Choosing To Become A Minimalist
Looking back on my childhood and even more recently in the last 5 years, I never could've imagined that I would be living a minimalist lifestyle much less writing about it.
For those that are not familiar with this word, a minimalist is someone who prefers a minimal amount or degree of something and makes an intentional decision about the things that are allowed space in their lives. Generally, a minimalist may own fewer material possessions and aims to lead a highly gratifying yet simpler life.
Developing a minimalist lifestyle has profoundly changed my life; it has helped me to redefine my values and purpose, shifted how I spend my days, and given me the freedom to start living my dreams.
In all honesty, becoming a minimalist was not an easy nor painless process. Every step of the way has been a journey in self-discovery.
Recently, I shared one of my favorite minimalist looks and tips for creating a wardrobe. I am a fashion lover at heart and my wardrobe was initially one of the hardest things to minimize.
In this blog post, I will share how I am living as a minimalist and how my life has been improved because of this choice. First, however I want to share a bit about what lead me to this turning point.
Read more below....
When Too Much Is Enough
As a child I recall always having every thing that I needed- plenty of clothes, toys, food, books, and art supplies - but I was never taught to be materialistic. It never seemed as though my worth was connected the things we owned. At that time we were a middle-class, military, dual-parent home and it was just apart of the environment. Parents worked and kids had all of their wants and needs met.
By the time, I was sixteen and able to drive, I was working 10-20 ours a week to pay for a car. Any extra cash was always spent eating out with friends and clothes shopping. Rarely (actually never) did I save any funds. Very early on I developed the belief that payday was nothing more than a reward for not doing what I really wanted (create, socialize, and sleep). Therefore, I owed it to myself to spend every single penny. No one ever told me differently either.
After graduating from high school, I moved out with a friend. Neither of us had a concept of budgeting and definitely, put fun and personal style above managing the household. After repeated;y mismanaged paychecks, we went our separate ways and I ended up living with my mother. This still was not the wake up call that I needed and I simply could not break the cycle of bad financial choices and the insatiable need to buy more things.
By age 23, I'd left college without a degree and with a little boy to raise on my own. I felt more determined than ever to work hard to earn a living and provide for him. After securing a full-time job, I felt proud when I got an apartment for us and was able to buy his clothing, formula, and other essential primarily on my own. I would work 40-60 hours a week just to pay bills, childcare, and then more clothing. My only goal was to make lots of money for the soul purpose of buying more stuff.
Even though I had the neccessities, it was important to me to look the part of successful single mom. Never really feeling happy or fulfilled. I suppose thinking about I wanted to have my cake and eat it too.
While working at a job that often left me drained mentally and physically, I had a severe anxiety attack. It wasn't that obvious then but now I can see that my reality was not lining up with the hopes and dreams I had for my life.
All that I truly desired was to be free - to create, to travel, to live my dreams, and do work that I loved- but instead I was living in this self-imposed box. I was drowning in debt and had absolutely nothing in savings. On top of that, I was still solely responsible for the well-being of a toddler. I felt like a failure.
Soon after my struggles with anxiety began, I put in my resignation notice. Moved my things into storage and went home again to my mother to regroup with a plan and promise to get my associate's degree. During this time I began a new relationship, managed a family-owned boutique, had another son and then daughter, and moved our family into a beautiful home; all while finished a bachelor's degree and working full-time for a multimedia firm. Funny, I thought "wow, this is what success looks like!" I felt that things were falling into place perfectly. Despite the fact that I was working tirelessly, I still found money and time to buy things for us. I believe it was okay since I was no longer alone with my partner and at least we were staying afloat.
By the winter of 2013, reality came crashing in. I had to make a choice to end what had become a tumultuous relationship and found myself packing all that I could fit into a four-door car and on a small trailer to distance myself from the situation. My three children and I moved into my sister's basement where we share one chest of drawers, one closet, and a bed. It was then that I came across the concept of minimalism while trying to fit our family into that tiny space.
I came across several helpful blogs and YouTube videos that provided real-life experiences of minimalism.
Here are some of my favorites:
I became intrigued by the journeys of others that made the intentional choice to lead a simpler and gratifying life. I think it is such a courageous thing to live with less in a society that places so much value on having or being more. It is great to know that it is okay to want less.
The more I learned the more I begin to envision my own life with fewer bills and a lot less stuff.
What if I could do what I love everyday? How would it feel to be able to experience life with my children? What if I could take my dream vacation?
Sounds amazing, right? Well, as with most things it has taken work to change habits and life-long mentalities. I started small -giving away things here and there. Some items went easily, others, I still feel angst just thinking about letting it go. There is an undeniable connection to the material possessions I accumulated.
For several years, I would repeat this haphazard attempt at de-cluttering but never truly settling into minimalism.
By the winter of 2016, I'd relocated to Alabama then back to Georgia, finished college, started my photography and design business, worked remotely for an online retailer, and while raising my three children. It felt like I was on the brink of a breakthrough in my quest for minimalism. Dreams were actually becoming reality the more I got clarity and less stuff to manage.
It became more clear to me that the changes I desired started with my values and what I wanted more than anything was peace, creative-living, freedom, and security. At last it finally made since that minimalism was just the tool that I need to accomplish these things. I had always felt like it was such a painful process of forcing myself to give up things. Now I see minimalism as making room for what my life needs and deserves.
So, What's It Like To Be A Minimalist?
A minimalist can come in all shapes and sizes. Although, my life is very different from just five years ago, I am somewhere in the middle of low-grade and extreme minimalist.
I still own approximately 30-40 items of clothing but surprisingly not that many pairs of shoes. I love to wear black but enjoy a splash of color here and there. All of the clothes that belong to my children fit into one large chest of drawers with the exception of hanging coats and dresses. As they grow out of things I do not hesitate to donate those items. The same goes for my own closet, I edit my wardrobe regularly and ruthlessly.
I live comfortable with my two children in an apartment that is just 1,000 sq. ft. I feel like I could go even smaller but I know that my family enjoys a little room to breath. I do own everything inside my home but much of the large furniture was graciously gifted.
I am a creative. So, I have several journals, paint, canvases, etc. These are things that I cannot part with right now (maybe ever). Currently, it is a goal of mine to remove even more items but I am taking it one day at a time and trusting the process.
My life has changed just by making this intentional choice. Most profoundly, I have seen in the last year and a half my confidence has skyrocketed. I now trust in my ability to be financially savvy, a good provider, entrepreneur, and creative. No longer do I stress about being able to buy my children every thing the world says they should have. I find more satisfaction in being present and I am proud of our bond.
I am an intentional spender now. It is my goal to be debt-free and no longer living paycheck to paycheck by the summer of 2020. I also want to grow a substantial emergency fund by that time to give us even more financial security.
I have been on this journey for a while and finally feel that I am comfortable with living a simple life that may be unconventional. It is the most freeing thing one can do -to live freely and not bogged down with stuff. Thanks to minimalism I can see my future more clearly. The things that once seemed impossible are closer than ever.
Tell me... Could you live a minimalist lifestyle? Are you a minimalist or have minimalist tendencies- I would love to here about your journey. Let me know in the comments.