Becoming a minimalist vs. Minimizing my life
I doubt I could tell you the first time I ever heard the word “minimalist” or that when I did hear it, I gave it much thought. I’m sure I thought it was some strange hippie thing and didn’t give it another thought. The reason for that may or may not surprise you. You see I was a HUGE over consumer a/k/a shopaholic a/k/a spent money I didn’t have on things I didn’t need. I can fully admit that I was a binge shopper. You know what a binge eater is, right? Well, I was a binge shopper. Upset, depressed, sad, bored – I would go shopping.
I LOVE pretty things. Purses, jewelry, stationery, shoes (oh Lord, the shoes…), trinkets and knick knacks – I love it all. I had every “space-saving” device known to man. My plant shelves were straight out of Kirklands or Home Goods. Target was my playground and don’t even get me started on DSW, Ross, TJMaxx, etc. Ulta, CVS or Walgreens? I could go a year without buying hair, make up or skin car products with the amount of items under my sink. I was always out for a good deal, and believe me, I found AMAZING deals.
But at what cost? How many shoes does one person REALLY need? How about flip-flops? How many is too many? I was the girl who had the same shirt in 8 colors and 15 pair of flip-flops – 4 of which might be black but different so it was ok. How many purses can one person realistically use? I think you get my point here.
The past few years have been difficult for me and I have done a lot of soul-searching and learning about myself and truly getting honest with myself in a ton of areas. Part of my “come to Jesus” moment with spending was having to file bankruptcy in 2012. I prided myself on having good credit, paying my bills on time, maintaining a well-paying job and having nice things, etc., so it was very humiliating to have to admit how far I had let things go with my spending. I have held great jobs over the past 16 years. Even as a 20-year-old working customer service for Capital One, I made great money. But even with the good, steady income, I let my over consumption of stuff become a huge setback and stumbling block in my life. We live in a consumption-based society and I was joining in big time. And I wasn’t just spending on me. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays – I splurged on everyone! Sure, there were some extenuating circumstances that helped push me to bankruptcy, but ultimately, I have myself to blame.
In August of last year, I decided I had to stop drinking. I fully admitted that I was powerless over alcohol at that point in my life and had been for a very long time and that I needed to do something about it. Did I WANT to quit drinking? No. Did I realize my NEED to quit drinking? Yes, thankfully I did. You see God gave me ONE FINAL chance. He gave me a moment where it was obvious that He was saying, “you either stop drinking and get it together, or you are going to kill yourself or someone else”. August 18, 2013 is my sobriety date and the beginning of a journey that has changed the course of my life.
AA is an amazing program. I started going to AA the week I decided to get sober and I didn’t miss a meeting for 5 months. But something happened to me when I started working the steps and really working the program. You see part of AA is being real with yourself. Brutally honest. There are no more excuses, no more hiding the truth. You either embrace the program and work the steps, or you fail. I refuse to fail, so I jumped all in, and what I had to do was face a lot of stuff I never wanted to have to face.
I will spare you my list of sins because it is long and ugly, but my point here is that although AA helped me get sober (and continue to stay sober a full year later), it also made me get real with myself in every other area of my life. I was hiding from a ton of demons and my life was spiraling in ways I never wanted to admit. I was queen of brushing things under the rug. The drinking was just a small (but serious) part of the problem. I had been running from so many things for so many years and getting honest with myself was exactly what my life needed. Drinking was just a small part of the problem. Getting honest about the drinking made me get honest about other areas that needed work in my life and I can truly say it saved my life. I hated the person I was before and no one knew. I had hidden it for so long and I finally had to work on me.
Enter minimalism. I don’t think people understand minimalism at all, and it’s frustrating at times. Not because I want to change the world and make everyone a minimalist, but because others don’t understand it, they make assumptions about it and most of them time, they could not be further from the truth. Getting honest about all my demons made me get honest about my over consumption and my frivolous spending habits that were not only dumb, but harmful to my financial freedom and well-being and just downright idiotic at times. What I have finally realized at 35, is that I don’t need all the “stuff” to be happy and fulfilled. In fact, all of the stuff is a distraction to what is really important.
I was really introduced to my first minimalist when I met my boyfriend, but let me back up a tad on that. My boyfriend has been a minimalist for almost 15 years. That is not to say he does not have nice things, valuable things or things that hold sentimental meaning to him. What it means is that everything he owns has a function, a purpose and fulfills a need and is useful in his life. It also means everything he owns can fit inside his small Toyota Corolla, and then he owns a bike and motorcycle. I’ve known my boyfriend’s mother for much longer than I have known him. One of the first times she talked about him to me, she explained in passing that he was a minimalist. I admit that the small bit she told me, had me thinking it was strange because I didn’t understand it at all. But then, about a year later, I met him and had the opportunity to get to know him and really see what minimalism is TO HIM.
You see minimalism is not the same for everyone. Am I a minimalist? No. Will I be someday? Yes, I probably will. The journey I am on right now, is so different though. I really love the blog Becoming Minimalist and I get so much out of Joshua’s site. One post he wrote was about finding a rational minimalism that works for you.
“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” —Joshua Becker
He does a much better job at truly explaining the concept behind minimalism and its so powerful to me, especially where I have come from with over consumption and the journey I am on right now. You should really go read his post, all of them actually (subscribe for that matter) and I think you may get a better understanding of the concept.
I guess what I want people to understand when they hear that I am on a journey toward minimalism is that it’s MY journey, and will be defined by what minimizing my life looks like. I also want people to know that I am not trying to pass judgment on them for their consumption needs and desires. My life is going to look different from your life in that we all have different goals and dreams and desires. And it’s going to be constantly evolving as we humble ourselves and grow and mature.
For me, as I look back on the past 16 years, I see a girl who has always made a great living, had nice cars, nice houses and lots of nice pretty things. But I also see a girl trying to fill a void with stuff. I see a girl who has nothing to show for all the hard work she put into working full-time since graduating high school. I see a girl who has worked to pay for a car she was never going to own, only use for a few years and then roll into another one she would never own, and so on. Same thing goes for the house I had to have. One that I just sold in a short sale and that was really too much house for my needs. What do they say now? Look for the house that fits your needs and you can afford, not the most expensive one you qualified for…something like that. I see all the purses and shoes and clothes and knick knacks and accessories that I have sold for dirt cheap at garage sales or given away and I think of the money wasted on that STUFF. That is what pushes me to analyze my possessions, to analyze my purchases and to prioritize my time. You see, the over consumption leads to less time for what is important. We have to work harder to pay for the toys we have, or pay for the ones we bought on credit. If you do buy it on credit, you end up paying more because of the interest. That “great deal” you just got, isn’t a great deal at all if you buy it with a card that you will then have to pay interest on. We work so hard to pay for the stuff we just had to have, but yet can’t enjoy since we have no time. As we remove the unneeded items from our life, it should free up time for what is truly important.
Again, I want to stress that this is a personal journey for me. If you like purses and shoes and clothes and nice cars and big houses – that is fine. I like those things too. But at this point in my life, and the journey that I am on, I see where my priorities have been so clouded for too long. I have missed the rainbow for the clouds, if you will. I have missed living and giving back in my pursuit of happiness with a full cart of junk from Target. I have been a slave to my job, sometimes a second job, in order to keep the cycle going and I’m done. I want to fill my time with experiences and living instead of filling my house and closet with useless material possessions. I want to have time to give back, to volunteer, to work on ME, mentally, physically and spiritually.
I used to have a huge walk in closet and it was full. I owned more than 100 pair of shoes (flip-flops, heels, boots, sneakers, etc.). I had well over 40 purses, 15 wallets, 40 scarves, 20 belts. I had enough shirts to probably wear a different one every day and not have to repeat for over six months. Beach towels? I had 15. Regular towels? Enough for a household of 10. Cups, plates, silverware, utensils, kitchen gadgets – I FILLED every space and there were just two of us and over half of it was NEVER USED. THAT is over consumption.
Here are some tips to help you minimize and simplify!
1) If you have not worn it or used it in 6 months, get rid of it.
2) If it holds no purpose or sentimental value, get rid of it.
3) Does it add value to your life or bring enjoyment, if not, get rid of it.
I’ve been living in a small, transitional apartment for the past 6 months. I knew I was moving to Arizona when I got that apartment. The goal in living in such a small space (389 sq. ft.) was to save money and learn to live with less. In that, I have learned what I really NEED, what I really USE, and what I have not touched since I moved in six months ago. Things that I HAD TO KEEP six months ago, and that made the transition into my tiny apartment with me, are now moving to the donate/trash pile. If I have not used it or needed it in the past six months, I doubt it needs to make the 2,200 mile trek to Arizona with me.
One other thing I wanted to touch on regarding this subject. My blog has been my accountability for health and fitness for almost three years now (this one and my previous blog). I have really been trying to educate myself more on what I put in my body and how I fuel and maintain my health and fitness. I am learning so much about GMO’s, Monsanto, chemicals and dangerous ingredients hidden in so many of the products I have used and loved and the foods I consume. I’m even finding that some of the most trusted “clean” products are sometimes full of hidden dangers.
Part of my minimizing has been eliminating all of the excess products I was hanging on to that contain these dangerous chemicals and ingredients. I easily had a years worth of lotion, shampoo & conditioner, make up, hair products, etc. all hanging out under my sink and in the linen closet. When I went through and looked at the ingredients in so many of them, it was scary what I have been putting in and on my body for too many years. You may think that I have become a hippie (maybe I have – I promise I shower Haley) but I have seen drastic improvements in my skin and how I feel since eliminating harmful chemicals and ingredients from my beauty regiment. One example, I have rosacea. Chayet commented early on, that it always seemed more agitated AFTER using one of my nice, expensive moisturizer or soaps. I decided to experiment with it and was amazed that switching to just coconut oil for my moisturizer drastically improved my skin and my rosacea is all but gone. I also have stopped wearing make up. I wear no foundation, no powder or blush and only eyeliner, mascara and lip moisturizer. My face and skin have not looked this good in years and I sometimes feel it looks even better than it ever did WITH the makeup! Maybe its my mindset – whatever it is, I like it. Don’t ask me to get rid of my mascara though – I’m so NOT THERE yet. =)
So this was a really long, wordy post and I apologize for that. If you made it to the end, thank you and congratulations. I know that this lifestyle is not for everyone, but I think we can all learn from taking a serious look at our material possessions and what we hold important. I know the Lord has convicted me of “storing treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19-20) and I’m hoping that with fewer distractions and stuff, I can focus again on storing up treasures in heaven.
I hope this post was informative and gives you a little glimpse into what I am trying to accomplish in my life and opens your eyes a little as to what minimalism really is all about.
My dream is to someday own and live in my very own Tiny House so I have a long way to go toward that dream, but at least I’m heading in the right direction!