We’ve talked about Paul and my minimalist journey, and we shared the story of our friend Christine’s family. From here on, we’ll be featuring more of our readers’ journeys to and with minimalism. Why? Because minimalism comes in all shapes and sizes – there is no one size fits all. We hope these stories will inspire those of you still on the fence to find the courage and start creating the life you really want to live.
Today’s article is about a fellow Kiwi’s journey. Michelle lives on the beautiful, rugged West Coast of the South Island. A self-employed writer working in the local government sector, she loves reading tarot (check out her YouTube channel MoonShadow Tarot), hiking and beach walks. In 2018, she hiked the 800 kilometre Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. She’s now got her eyes on the Kumano Kodō in Japan.
Over to you, Michelle…
What minimalism means to me
For me, minimalism is a pathway to freedom, ease and more joy. I have depression and anxiety, and I have found that less truly is more: Having fewer belongings reduces both my physical and mental clutter. The clearer my home is the clearer is my mind.
How it all started
I’ve always been curious and interested in ideas long before they are mainstream, but I’m a slow adopter, admittedly. I like to percolate and gestate ideas for a long time before I implement them. I’ve been interested in various aspects of minimalism for over a decade. However, it’s only been in the last twelve months that I have pursued minimalism quite actively.
Interestingly, some health issues and food intolerances were a gateway drug to minimalism for me (I use that term in a positive sense). When I first realized I needed to give up gluten and dairy because of their effect on my body, I was disheartened. However, once I got started, I discovered a real love of cooking that I’d never had before.
I lost a significant amount of weight, gained more energy and resolved some niggling health issues like night-time vomiting, rashes and heartburn.
It was the first time I had the profound experience of giving up something but gaining so much at the same time.
Around the same time, I read Carl Honore’s book In Praise of Slow (he also has a similarly titled TED talk). It talks about intentionally slowing down and challenging what he calls the cult of speed in various areas of life – everything from eating to sex to travel.
One of the first, specific minimalism ideas I recall hearing about was Project 333, which is about wearing only 33 items of clothing (including shoes and accessories) for 3 months. The idea is that most people only wear a small proportion of their clothes the majority of the time anyway. Wearing fewer clothes also means less laundry and less time spent getting ready in the morning as you’re not obsessing about what to wear.
I probably have about 60 items of clothing in total now including shoes and accessories, and I do find it liberating. I also use Marie Kondo’s clothes folding methods as outlined on her Netflix TV show.
One of the biggest appeals of minimalism to me is that buying (and storing and cleaning) fewer things frees up time, space and money to spend on the things that really do make me happy. Most of my happiness comes from experiences rather than things by the way (for example, travel and learning).
How I’ve adopted minimalism as a single woman
For the last two years, I have set myself a simple goal: get rid of 400 things a year. Each year, I have vastly exceeded this. I’m now in my third year, and I love it.
400 is the perfect number to set for me, because it is just over one item a day, therefore very achievable. The items I get rid of can be big or ridiculously small (dried-up pens, excess hair ties, toiletries I don’t use, etc). I sell, donate and re-gift items I get rid of or dispose of them to landfill.
I never was a hoarder. I’ve always had less stuff than most people, so it might seem strange to get rid of things. However, I grew up with unemployed parents. Money was extremely tight, and this has affected me into my adult life: Despite my income increasing, I continued to buy lots of little, poor quality items to make myself feel not deprived. It wasn’t until I started on my minimalist journey that I realized how much money I wasted buying little things that didn’t make me happy. They also weren’t that useful as they would break or only be partly functional due to their poor quality.
It took me a while to realize that I deserved to have better quality items and that it wasn’t wasteful to pay more for an item that would last a long time and bring me joy. So getting rid of things was partly an exercise in retraining my mind.
I’ve also started what I hope will be an annual tradition: buying a bunch of groceries and giving them to the local food bank on my birthday. Minimalism isn’t about being stingy. I think it is important to realize that being able to choose to have less is a privilege. Many people live with less than they need because they don’t have other options.
I also live social media free! I only use YouTube as a source of free information. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc have all been deactivated and apps deleted. I also don’t listen to the radio or own a television (though I do watch TV shows and movies online).
How my life has changed
The biggest impact of these changes is: I feel more in control. I’m not constantly being bombarded with advertising online or distracted by what other people are doing or saying on social media.
My wardrobes and cupboards are well organised. There are fewer objects in my line of sight around my home, and therefore my environment feels and looks calmer. It’s easier to keep my home clean and tidy, and I always know where things are.
I’m more aware of what I’m spending my money on and whether it is making me more or less happy (in the long term). I produce less waste. And I’m time-rich: I only work 20 hours a week!
How the changes I’ve made influenced those around me
Some friends have been inspired to declutter their homes, reclaim their time by working less, or try Marie Kondo’s folding method. I don’t preach to those around me, but I do share my life including what I’m learning and what works for me. I’m always happy when something I share sparks a seed of inspiration for someone else.
I continue to work on reducing digital clutter by unsubscribing from email lists, and deleting emails once dealt with.
I’m keen to use a lot more open source tech platforms for accounting, word processing, graphic design, website hosting, etc rather than be dependent on tech giants like Google and Microsoft whose values do not necessarily align with mine. But ultimately, I’d like to reduce the amount of time I spend in front of a computer, and instead get outdoors more.
A final word of wisdom
There is no one right way to live a minimalist life. I think this is so important to remember. There is so much great advice online, but this should serve as inspiration only. It is really important that you test things for yourself and only adopt what truly feels good to your own soul.
Feature image by Chelsea Shapouri on Unsplash