I didn’t mean to become a minimalist. I didn’t read a blog post or see a youtube video and realise that simplifying would lead me to a happier life. And I didn’t purge my home and get rid of everything I owned. I just sort of fell in to it over a long period of time, and I am so happy that I did!
At one point many years ago I rented a three bedroom house with a friend. We had a guest room that rarely got used, an office we never went in and a second bathroom that was only used if we were just getting back from a long drive and both needed to go at the same time. I had lots of furniture, plenty of clothes for every occasion, a series of loosely organized junk drawers and way too much clutter . When we parted ways, I lived in a few different places with various other roommates, sometimes having to put most of my stuff in storage. Later I travelled to Italy, met a guy and things got kind of serious. We did the long-distance thing for a few years while travelling back and forth, and planning for me to ultimately move there.
It was during this period of my life that I started thinking more about my money and priorities. Flying to Sicily and taking weeks or months off work was a huge expense, and while I was paid an above average wage for a Barista, I was by no means rich. I had to make choices about what was most important to me at that time, and prioritize my spending accordingly. My bus pass replaced the need for a vehicle, and I went without a smart phone or expensive hobbies. I stopped buying new clothes all the time and I only ate out for social occasions. I lived with roommates to keep my housing costs low and I worked two jobs each Christmas season to save extra cash. All the money I saved and the extra I made went towards plane tickets and extra time off.
It’s worth noting that I’m a very frugal traveler, but that’s a topic for another post.
After traveling back and forth for a year or two I started giving more thought to which of my belongings were worth bringing with me when I eventually moved abroad. I sold my stored furniture, for way less than I paid for it. It was a hard realization that the value I had given them when I purchased them was much higher than the value someone else would see in them. Regardless, the money had already been spent so it was a choice between keeping or getting a few bucks back for them. Surprisingly, as soon as each item was gone, the weight of owning it lifted from my shoulders, and I felt freer.
In the end, I decided to end the relationship and stay in Canada. The phrase “Don’t cross oceans for someone who won’t cross a puddle for you” hit me in both a literal and figurative way. My priorities changed once again and I moved downtown to a tiny studio at the top of my budget, and I loved every second of it.
While I had gotten rid of most of my furniture and a lot of random things I didn’t need, I never purged in the way minimalist groups do. It was a very slow and deliberate pairing down of things that didn’t serve me anymore. I looked at the value of my things versus the space they occupied, instead of the money I had spent on them. After many years of dragging boxes from rental to rental without ever fully unpacking, many things were sold, given away or donated. By the time I left my city to move to Nova Scotia, my entire life fit in the back of the smallest u-haul trailor.
Since moving east I discovered that my way of thinking about money and things was not unique. I discovered the minimalism movement; a community of people who hoped to find a higher level of contentedness by owning fewer things. Through these groups I found the encouragement I needed to get to the bottom of every single box and finally finish letting go. I bought a 33′ trailer and lived in it for 3 summers to prove that I didn’t need much space to be comfortable. I kept my spending very deliberate, always thinking about whether or not purchases got me closer to my goals.
If you’ve been following for a while you probably know how I paid off a ton of debt during Covid closures and managed to buy my first home. This was only possible because I was already in a minimalist mindset. In the last year I’ve read so many posts about how people were ordering so much stuff from amazon that by the time they opened the boxes they had forgotten what they had ordered. There was also the “Rose all day” crowd who were spending obscenely on wine (which I get for next to nothing 😉)as a coping method. Honestly, my family and I lived a pretty boring existence for a while there, but all goals take sacrifice. We have the things we need, and sure, there are things we would like to buy, and we splurge once in a while. But knowing that we already have what we really need in our life – food, shelter, clothing, love – we are pretty happy, and rarely miss the things we don’t have.
If your struggling to keep on top of your bills, want to save for something big or are just overwhelmed by the clutter in your home, consider what minimalism really means. You don’t have to throw away all the things you love (unless you want to!) but you could find a real benefit to spending according to goals, not impulses.