I was in college when I first saw the book that would change the trajectory of my whole life. I had wandered into one of my favorite coffee shops and there it was, next to the register, a signed copy of Minimalism, Live a meaningful life. It was a short read and under $15 so I picked it up and that was that. Although it would take a few more years to really set in, that was the moment where my mindset began to change dramatically.
Minimalism gets a bad rap. I used to picture people off the grid, wearing only handmade clothes, and eating organic chicken. That is not me. Camping is not my go to, I really enjoy shopping every once in a while, and I own more than 5 pairs of shoes.That is why I love minimalism. It is not a one size fits all and it is not all about getting rid of stuff. It is a mentality.
In the book, the authors recommend starting out with writing down lists of what is important in your life. What are your priorities and goals, what is your mission? Then, you determine what things are holding you back from achieving them. Is it a job, a person, a mentality, or is it stuff? On a long road trip Curtis and I went through this exercise separately and then together, we mapped out what we wanted our life to look like in 1 year, 2 years, and 5 years. We wrote down what we wanted our life mission to be. Then we wrote down all the things that were holding us back from that.
I will be honest, it was not the most fun, but it was probably one of the most important drives of our life. One big goal that we both wrote down was to someday live abroad. Things that were holding us back – Our 9-5 jobs, our house, and what would we do with all of our stuff? This was about 4 years ago. It has taken 3 years of making some hard changes, but this year we lived abroad for the first time, and are now fully remote.
For Curtis and I it definitely started with our stuff. We had just gotten married and were trying to figure out the best way of combining all of our things that we had accumulated over the years into our new 700 square foot apartment. We had been reading about minimalism for a while at this point, had seen the movie, ready about Marie Kondos techniques, but had yet to start implementing it in a meaningful way. One day Curt insisted that we try the Marie Kondo method (mixed with a method from the minimalists) with our closet, I resisted, but eventually agreed.
The method goes like this: Start with one category, collect everything in that category from every nook of your home and collect it in piles. Then, go through each item, one by one, and ask if that thing supports our mission. It sounds cheesy, but it did work.
We started with our clothes. We took every single item off the hanger, out of the drawer, and piled it high in our living room. I was shocked. I could barely see the floor when we were through. The whole process took about a week, but when we got through everything we had minimized our wardrobe to a fraction of what it had been. We were left with the things we actually loved wearing. Goodbye pants that fit me in high school and the halloween costume I was certain I would wear again. We felt invigorated! After that week, we moved on to our kitchen, and then our living room, until we had gone through every single possession we had. It sounds like a lot of work, but the categories made it really feasible.
How Minimalism Changed Me
We were hooked, and not for the reasons we thought we would be. Yes our apartment was so easy to clean now and I didn’t have to dig through piles of things to find what I was looking for, that was great. But all I can say is that we felt so free. It is pretty incredible how much mental space “things” take up in our lives. When we eliminate the stuff that is not necessary it makes room for the things that are important. You only see the things in your home that bring you real joy, and you don’t have to look at the piles of junk that actually have a negative impact on you.
Getting rid of the stuff helped us to start to think differently about every area of our lives. Getting rid of the mental clutter empowered me to start a business, pushed Curtis to quit his 9-5 job, and gave us the tools to sell our house, most of our possessions, and pursue a remote lifestyle.
Minimalism empowered us to make the changes that would change our lives. It looks different for everyone, but getting rid of the “stuff” to make room for what matters is something I could never encourage enough. It is also a never ending journey. Every year we make a point to check in on our lists, celebrate our wins, and reflect on our evolving missions. So I challenge you today to write down your goals and purpose, then write down everything that is holding you back and determine what is most important in your life. I would love to hear about your journey!