The Habitual Minimalist: Finding Peace In Letting Go

I may be a minimalist now, but I could have easily been a hoarder.  Not because I am especially materialistic (though I was years ago), but mostly because I am sentimental.  Three years ago my best friend John helped me move to a new apartment.  I was not yet educated in the art of minimizing and had quite a lot of stuff.  (Mostly books, but I will get to that later.)  About halfway through the move, John picked up a box that was particularly heavy and sarcastically asked “What the heck is in here Devan?  Rocks?”  He started to laugh until he saw the look on my face as I sheepishly replied that is was.  Yup, It was a box of rocks.   A pretty good sized one too.  I had started collecting rocks after seeing the 1994 movie With Honors and had 20 years of collecting in that box thank you very much.   To this day, I think it’s John’s favorite ‘go to’ story about me.  He tells everyone about my box of rocks and gets a pretty hearty laugh each time he shares it.  I can’t deny, it is pretty funny.  

minimalist olive spoon
The Infamous Olive Spoon

I also tend to like odd or clever things.  Nothing of value to anyone but me, my odd aesthetic, and/or eccentric taste.  For example, I bought an olive spoon at Crate and Barrel 10 years ago.  It is designed to pluck a single olive from a jar and has slits in the bottom to drain the juice.  It’s cute, quite clever, and I loved owning it, but I only used it once.  Seriously, who eats one olive at a time, or only needs one olive for anything they are making?  No one, that’s who.  Yet when I was minimizing it took quite a long time to let that silly spoon go…

Ah, hell.  Who am I kidding?  I still have the freaking olive spoon.  There are just some silly things it’s hard to let go.  But I swear it WILL be gone by the time I leave Arizona.  Probably.

As you might guess, minimizing has been an ongoing process for me.  It started late in 2014 when I watched a Ted Talks by The Minimalists called A Rich Life with Less Stuff.  Ryan spoke candidly about life before minimizing and how seeing his friend Joshua so happy inspired him to minimize.  The first time I watched it I was impressed and inspired but did not take action.  The second time I watched it, I minimized the very next day.  It was the first effort to minimize and I got rid of a lot!  After a couple of months, when I knew I would be moving soon, I decided to get rid of more stuff so I went through everything again.  I have done this now 4 times and always find more I can let go of.  I intend to do one more sweep before I move into my Van/RV in August 2016.

I am currently living in a 240 square foot studio and saving a significant amount of money on rent and utilities in the process.  This allows me to put a decent amount of money in savings for the purchase of my Van/RV.  I couldn’t live here or be saving this money if I had not gone through the minimizing process.  While I will still fall short of what I would like to save before I leave, I will have way more than I would have otherwise.

If you have ever considered minimizing for any reason, I can highly recommend it for so many more reasons than you may think.  It frees your mind of clutter when you eliminate the clutter around you.  Every time you go shopping or start to buy something, you think about how much you need it or where you will put it.  I’ve saved money by just thinking through purchases more now than I used to.  You also begin to live more deliberately, causing your life to have more meaning and value.  If your personal identity revolves around what you own and the things you have, you’re doing it wrong my friends.

Frankly, as I look around my tiny studio right now, I see so much that I truly don’t need.  You’ll find that happens when you start to let things go, you find you can live with less and less so you give away more and more.   The majority of my clutter are books.  I LOVE books.  Though I buy most books on Kindle now, I have quite a library and it would be difficult to replace them all.  I have cut down from over a thousand books to around 110 (at last count).  This is kind of a big deal for me as it is, but I plan to get down to under 50 before I leave in August.  It’s all about balance.  Fifty may still seem like a lot to some people, but heck, I got rid of almost 80 lbs of rocks, I’m going to keep 50 flipping books!

Initially, I minimized with the goal of never owning more than I could fit in my car.  At the time, I wanted to move and couldn’t because I owned so much stuff it would have cost a fortune to pick up and go.  Obviously, that plan has evolved to full-time travel and living in a Van or RV, but the simplicity of living this way is something I have considered for years.  In fact, I was a fan of the tiny house movement from the moment I saw one for the first time around 2005, and always assumed I would find a place to settle down and build one of my own.  While the idea of living simply has been in my mind for a long time, I just needed to get to where I am now to understand the right direction for me.  I strongly recommend minimizing and downsizing.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much happier and free it will make you feel.  Trust me on this one.

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