A little over a year ago my husband and I made a momentous decision that completely changed our lives and led us down the path towards minimalism. While that may sound a bit dramatic, it is the absolute truth. What is so significant about the decision we made was that it required a huge amount of faith and trust on both of our parts. I am a planner, I have been pretty much since birth. I have lived from a fear perspective of having to micro manage and control everything, because only then did I feel safe. If I plan for something, and guard against every possible glitch, then I will be ok, right? The end result of this was a life that felt very tight and constricted. I didn’t realize how restricted I was, until I broke old patterns and discovered a new way of being.
I had a health crisis in March 2014 that I will be eternally grateful for as it forced me to take a long hard look at my life, and make some very necessary changes. My husband was in a transition period as well, we both did a lot of soul searching, and had some deep and meaningful conversations about what we wanted our life to look like. The end result of all of this soul searching was a leap of faith move across the country. We packed our kids in our Mazda 6 and embarked on a road trip from St John’s, NL to Victoria, BC. The car trip was a wild and crazy adventure, one we hope to repeat when my son is old enough to remember it.
When we made the decision to move we elected to let go of most of what we owned. This decision was motivated by a couple of things. We had no desire to pay to move all of our stuff so far, especially since we had already moved the majority of it to St John’s from Calgary in the first place. We also both felt that there had to be more to life than carting around a bunch of posessions, and were very keen to lighten the load.
I had spent over 4 years repeatedly shuffling and organizing everything in our almost 3,000 square foot house, but as soon as we made the decision to move something shifted within me and I was suddenly able to purge as I have never purged before. My husband worked on touch ups around the house while I listed or donated at least ¾ of what we owned. I have never felt so liberated in my life, the more I let go, the lighter I felt. It was a beautiful experience, and also a humbling one as I was forced to face up to all of the possessions I had accumulated over the years. The worst part was, a lot of it was stuff I hardly ever used and had saved for a “what if” rainy day that never ended up happening. We coordinated a small moving truck for the items we didn’t want to bring with us and left with two medium suitcases, a kitchen box, stroller and bag of yoga gear in the trunk. We were on the road for over 2 months, and we found that what we brought was more than enough.
Prior to our move we had been doing a lot of reading about tiny homes, and were keen to try out a smaller space to see if this kind of lifestyle would work for our family. We decided to try it for a year, as an experiment of sorts, and rented an 869 square foot apartment when we arrived. I remember looking around our new space the day all of our boxes arrived thinking Oh My God, how are we going to make it all fit? We unpacked and did another massive round of purging, and found that everything we needed fit quite nicely in our new apartment. I am not sure I would have been able to do all of this even a year before, but having the motivation and a variety of great tools at my disposal got me to a space where it was finally possible to let go.
While on our road trip I discovered The Minimalists and read their book Everything That Remains, which proved to be a wonderful source of inspiration. Through The Minimalists blog I also found Joshua Becker’s Becoming Minimalist site, along with Francine Jay’s Miss Minimalist. I began to better understand the environmental impact of a consumerist lifestyle, through Trash is For Tossers, among others. The more I read, the more it all made sense to me. I recently discovered Capsule Dressing, and purged my closet, thanks to Project 333. We are still letting go on an ongoing basis, living in a small space forces us to think long and hard before making new purchases. Does that mean I will never buy anything again? Of course not, but when I do make purchases they are very selective, and I try to support local and independent retailers as much as possible. Adopting a one in, one out policy with new purchases also helps to prevent the clutter monster from creeping in.
With three kids clutter does creep up quickly, but on the upside we can clean and vacuum our apartment in a half hour or less. I feel good about the values we are passing along to our kids, focusing on non-accumulation, and time spent rather than stuff. We live in close proximity to downtown and can walk everywhere, with the added benefit of having several parks and a swimming pool close by. My kids still have lots of toys and books, but we are now focussing on experience gifts and books on our kindle, or from the local library moving forward.
I was inspired to write this post today because it marks the closing date for our 859 square foot condo. Our one year experiment has become a lifestyle, a paradigm shift that has completely changed our relationship with possessions and accumulation. I am all about live and let live – just because we choose to do things in a certain way doesn’t mean it is the right choice for everyone. But after experiencing this for a year – and gaining a new perspective on the environmental impact of mass accumulation, I do believe an increased level of consciousness around purchases would be beneficial for everyone.
What is your take on downsizing? Do you think it is necessary – or desirable to have less stuff? What steps have you taken (if any) towards a more minimalist lifestyle?