Why I Became a Minimalist: My Story of Life with Less

Why I Became a Minimalist - My Story of Life with Less

Growing up I loved stuff. All kinds of stuff. I even had a box in my childhood room full of junk mail I collected from the post office recycling bin! I always had collections and special things I was saving. In the last few years, I have completely changed directions. Now I find too much stuff stresses me out and makes me feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Over this time I’ve discovered there are many benefits to a simpler, more minimalist life. But before I realized all the benefits a more minimalist lifestyle could offer, two specific events in my life shifted my mindset about stuff and ultimately motivated me to declutter. This is why I became a minimalist, my story of life with less.

Why I Became a Minimalist: People Matter More than Things

The first event was when we lost our first child, Aiden, in 2010. Losing Aiden changed everything about my life, and one of those changes was my mindset about stuff. I realized that the things we own are just things. It’s just stuff. What really matters in life are the people we share it with. I became less attached to my possessions and knew I wanted to fill my life with people I love, not things I own.

Why I Became a Minimalist: Toddler Tornado

The biggest catalyst to start me on the path to minimalism was definitely when my daughter, Emily, was a toddler. Kids, especially toddlers, have a special way of getting into EVERYTHING! I’ve always been an organized person, so even though I had a lot of stuff it was (usually) neat and organized. But when my daughter started getting into my massive amounts of neatly organized stuff, things changed! I got so sick of cleaning up and putting away the same things. Finally, I had enough, something had to change. Without even realizing it at the time, I started down the path of becoming a minimalist.

A Bottle of Lotion Turned me into A Minimalist

I clearly remember the day I started my journey towards becoming a minimalist. It was early one morning in April 2013. Emily had just turned two. She was usually good about occupying herself with a few toys or books in my bedroom while I quickly showered and got ready for the day. She was becoming more curious though and was often getting into the drawers and cupboards in my bedroom and bathroom. I was often frustrated when I got out of the shower to find the whole cabinet under the sink emptied and her digging her little fingers into my eyeshadow, or unrolling a roll of toilet paper.

On this particular day, she got into the cupboard filled with all my various lotions. It still baffles me why I had so many partially used bottles of different lotions and creams. Even if I didn’t like a certain one I never seemed to throw it away because I thought I might “need” it one day, or didn’t want to be wasteful. So I would shove it to the back of the cupboard and it would stay there never being used.

When I got out of the shower on this day, I found Emily standing by the chest at the foot of my bed with an entire bottle of runny, glittery lotion poured all over the chest, herself, her pajamas, and the carpet!! In case you’ve never had the experience, cleaning lotion out of carpet is not fun or easy!

Why I Became a Minimalist - My Story of Life with Less
Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash

The Beginning of My Minimalist Journey

Right then and there I decided enough was enough! I was so sick of cleaning up the same messes and the same stuff that I didn’t even need. I got a big garbage bag and started filling it with everything and anything I could see that I didn’t use or love.

It felt so freeing to get rid of stuff I didn’t use or love. I had been feeling obligated to keep so much because I didn’t want to “waste” the money I had spent on it or because it was a gift. The money was already gone, it was time to let it go. If it was a gift, it had already served its purpose. The gift giver showed their love with the gift and I appreciated it, but if I wasn’t using or loving it, it was time to let it go. I gave myself permission to get rid of anything I didn’t use or love because picking it up after Emily unloaded it was taking up way too much of my time.

I worked through the whole house removing anything I didn’t use or love and paring down anything we had too much of. That was my first round of decluttering. I felt like I got rid of so much, but in reality, I had only just scratched the surface. A couple of months later I had cleared out so much stuff from our house that we had a garage sale. We made a little money and got rid of a lot of stuff. We donated everything that was left after the garage sale, and I thought that my work was done.

Minimalism: It’s a Journey, not a Destination

As time went on, I realized there was still stuff in the house I didn’t use or love. So I began to do another round of decluttering. I’ve done several more rounds of decluttering since then. With each round, I found more that I was willing to let go of and get rid of. We donated many boxes and bags of stuff to the second-hand store, and I began to realize just how much stuff we had.

Last year we moved to a new house, and I felt like we didn’t have too much stuff….until I had to box it all up and we moved it to our new house. How did we still have so much stuff!!

So I have continued to purge and declutter. Maybe one day my house will finally feel “done” and all I’ll need to do is maintain that level of stuff. Or maybe it will always be an ongoing project. But I feel good where I’m at on this minimalist journey. I know that getting rid of the excess stuff in our house makes our lives so much easier, so I am going to continue on this path.

Are you working to declutter or minimize your life? I would love to hear what motivated you to begin decluttering. Leave a comment and let me know!

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58 Comments

  1. I’m sorry for your loss of Aiden <3 I agree, things are just that- things. I actually just went through another round of decluttering and it was awesome. The first time around I didn't let go of very much. But this time I really dug deep and let go of the "I might need it later" thought process that kept me from letting stuff go. It's a really freeing experience.

    1. That’s great! It is so freeing to let go of stuff you don’t really need or want. I also work in stages of decluttering, the more I let go of, the more I feel able to let go of. I’m so glad you are experiencing the benefits of less!

      And thank you for your kind words about Aiden ❤️

  2. I’m constantly cleaning up… and I HATE cleaning! Lol. Wanna help me purge? It’s so much more fun when we can visit at the same time! 😜 I’m proud of you by the way, love the blog! ❤️

    1. I totally feel you, I hate cleaning up too! It makes me a very cranky mom, and then no one is happy!

      I would love to help you, any excuse to have extra time for visiting!! And I actually like decluttering and organizing, weird I know 😉 Anytime you want help, let me know and we’ll plan a trip down!

      Thanks for the love!

  3. Really great post! I too, have more than a couple bottles of half used lotion under my bathroom sink. I need to do a spring cleaning, I actually love throwing stuff away and swear I sleep better at night after a good purge!

  4. For the past couple years, I’ve started my journey towards minimalism. I guess it started as a ‘new beginning’ in life after a failed relationship. Now, I’m in a new relationship where I stay at his place on weekends. I notice how little I need to pack to spend two days with him and come home wondering why I have so much stuff. One of my sons and I just did another ‘purge’ — 5 bags, 6 boxes and a picnic basket to donate. I’m sure we’ll have more of your ‘decluttering’ sessions 😉

    1. Wow! What an amazing job your son did! That’s great, good for him! I’ve thought the same thing as you after being away from home. If I can manage just fine with only a suitcase of stuff, why do I need more than that? It’s a good reminder to help you evaluate how much of your stuff is actually being used. Thanks for sharing, it sounds like your family is making excellent progress. Keep me posted as you carry on towards minimalism 🙂

  5. Getting out the trash bag now! I have been working hard month trying to get rid of stuff we don’t need. It is tough trying to decide what stays and what goes. One thing I have noticed though is we now really take care/enjoy the stuff we actually have. I’m glad I took the time to read this, it was worth the read! So sorry for the loss o your child. Prayers and good vibes your way this evening <3

    1. Thanks for reading, I’m glad you found it valuable and inspiring to continue on your decluttering mission! It’s so true that you can appreciate what you have more once you get rid of all the stuff you don’t value. Sounds like you are making great progress! Thanks for you kind words and support <3

  6. We just went through our entire house in preparation to move. We had piles of stuff to donate plus more that went in the garbage or r cycling. I know it’s still a journey and there will be more and more to get rid of in time but it was SO LIBERATING to get rid of things we knew we didn’t need. We were especially gratified by finally sorting through the “crap
    Boxes” of old paperwork and random odds and ends that we’d been moving from House to house for years! This move will be much easier and we are looking forward to seeing the boxes come off the truck at the other end and know that each thing in them is something we want to own.

    1. That’s so awesome Melanie! Especially since you have to move so frequently, I bet it will make a huge difference and make life so much easier! It’s crazy how much stuff we accumulate without even realizing, especially once you add kids to the mix. I wish we were closer so I could come visit and check out all your hard work!

  7. So glad to hear you’re on the minimalist journey! I caught the use it or loose it bug a few years ago and now I’m always excited when I find something else to get rid of 🙂

  8. This is awesome. I can totally relate to those toddler years… whew! I watched the movie Minimalism a few months ago, and reading about others’ journeys toward less stuff is keeping me inspired to continue on mine. 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Yes, the toddler years are challenging to say the least! I’m glad you’ve found some inspiration to keep you motivated. I love reading about other people’s journeys too. So inspiring! Thanks for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  9. I just shredded over a YEAR’S worth of mail! There was a $5 check that I never even opened. Lesson learned! You never know what you could be missing out on by holding onto things you don’t need.

  10. Great post! I can definitely relate. I’ve probably gone through my entire house 3 or 4 times decluttering and having garage sales, but I’m ready to do so again. It’s so much easier to keep clean, much easier to relax in, and just looks better all around.

    1. Yes! A clean and uncluttered house makes life so much more enjoyable. I’ve done many rounds of purging in my house too. Each time I do another round I find I’m ready and willing to let go of more and more. Good luck with your next round of decluttering and thanks for reading! 🙂

    1. There’s always hope Pamela! Pick a place to start, even if it’s just one drawer or shelf and keep working away. It may take time, but eventually you’ll make progress. If you need more help getting started, check out my latest post 7 Steps to Declutter your Home and Embrace Minimalism. I outline an action plan to start decluttering and you can get a free Decluttering Action Plan Workbook to help you start and work through the process. Hope that helps! Thanks for reading!

      1. As we get older we realise the need to live with less accumulated through the years after having children. I am 70yrs this year and started decluttering over 8years ago and still at it.
        When my husband died 6 yrs ago I had to clear out 30yrs. of hoarding from his garage. I was 65yrs of age when I was filling dumpsters. I DID IT! The garage is now a gym for my youngest daughter. Before my husband died he got a Log cabin built. This was his dream. Clutter filled this log cabin so I had to start again and declutter. All gone now and my eldest son now 49yrs of age is using this as his man cave. I am progressing. I gave away 6 sets of bedding and bedcovers. I do feel lighter. A tip Pamela is we can’t take it with us when we die so it is just less for those left having to clear out for us. hope this helps.

        1. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your husband Doreen. Good for you for working so hard and doing so much decluttering. That’s amazing! I agree that putting our “stuff” in perspective is a great way to help us be able to let go. I’m so happy for you that you have been able to let go of the clutter and find the freedom and lightness of living with less. That’s wonderful! Thanks for reading 🙂

  11. Loved this post. I so relate to thinking you’ve decluttered but then you look around and nope! Still more to go. Over the past 5 years my boyfriend and I have culled, decluttered, sold, donated, given away – and we’re still not done. We’ve moved twice (about do to it again) and each time we’ve downsized our possessions. This time we’re moving with 5 fewer standard moving cartons and 5 fewer book boxes – but we still have too much STUFF. p.s. “paired down” should be “pared down”.

    1. Thanks Di! Yes, decluttering definitely seems to be something that happens in waves. I find the more I get rid of, the more I am willing to let go of the next time. I think once you start letting go of your stuff and realize that having less actually improves your life, it makes it easier to continue letting go. Moving is definitely excellent motivation to declutter. Good for you and your boyfriend for all the work and decluttering you’ve done so far. It sounds like you’re doing an amazing job! Thanks for reading and sharing your story 🙂 (and thanks for pointing out my typo!)

  12. I can completely relate! I don’t consider myself a person who hoards too much and yet when my husband and I moved from our loft apartment into a temporary cottage, I couldn’t believe all we had accumulated. Then, we moved abroad and had to get rid of so much more – I couldn’t believe even at this stage how many things and items we had and didn’t need. Good luck with the onward journey! It’s a process – as you say.

    1. Yes, there’s nothing like having to pack up and move everything you own to make it very obvious just how much we have! I’ve often thought it would be good to move every year or two, just to avoid accumulating too much stuff without realizing it LOL! It definitely is a process! Good luck with your journey as well and thanks for reading 🙂

  13. We have moved 4times in 5 years then 5 years ago i got pregnant after 11 years .

    I was allway keeping things tidy at each move i donate ir recycled lots .
    I donate my 5 year oldclothes to a non profit.and buy for the next season from the same store
    Loved yourpiece

    1. Thanks Patricia! Wow, 4 moves in 5 years, that’s definitely incentive to keep only what you use and love! That’s a great idea for your child’s clothes, such a great idea! Thanks for reading and sharing your tip!

  14. Totally agree people before things! It always feels good when I dump the useless luggage. With grandkids now it seems like our clutter has doubled if not tripled. As a child I don’t remember having so much stuff…it sort of looses its usefulness when there is so much…I get it!!!!

    1. Yes, you’re absolutely right. When we have too much stuff it goes from making our lives more convenient and easier to actually making our lives more difficult! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  15. Thank you your thoughts are so helpful. I have just decided to live a simpler life. I cleaned out my huge closets, suitcases under he bed, boxes in the loft (yes I am a hoarder too!) and sold all my unwanted clothes on ebay or donated past their best to charity shops.This paid for a holiday! I just cannot believe the sense of freedom I feel looking at a half empty closet. I am going to continue throughout the house now wish me luck.

    1. Wow, it sounds like you’ve been working hard and making amazing progress Olivia! Good for you! And using the money you earned to pay for a holiday is such a great way to reward yourself, I love that! It really is freeing to get rid of things you don’t use or love anymore. When I really decluttered my wardrobe, it made such a difference in my life. I love that you found the same thing! Thanks so much for reading and sharing your experience. Good luck as you continue decluttering, please keep me posted on your progress!

  16. After my parents divorced, my Dad lived in an 800-square-foot cabin in the woods. He was a minimalist, the opposite of my Mom.
    His idea in filling his new abode was to have “only what I use.” Whenever I would visit him, I noticed how ‘at peace’ I felt in his simple and uncluttered home. Now in my 70th year, I am longing for my father’s simple way of living. I have too much stuff…stuff I haven’t used in years. Your article is a wonderful catalyst for this endeavor. Thank you!

    1. Your dad’s cabin sounds lovely Carol. I also love the peaceful feeling you get when you are in a calming, uncluttered space. It’s wonderful! I’m glad my post gave you some inspiration to start decluttering your own home. Thanks for reading 🙂

  17. I have been fascinating with the thought of minimalism for years now. I have read books, blogs, documentaries…you name it. But my friend recommended that we do the Minimalist Challenge (from “The Minimalist”) First day of the month, get 1 item out of your house. The second day 2 items, the 3rd day…three items…etc. In the end you end up giving away 514 items (31 day month) and/or 483 items if a 30 day month. Doing it each day didn’t seem so overwhelming or another thing on my to do list. It became challenging at times – but it really opened my eyes to how my brain works “keep this, you need this”. I found a bottle of room spray I have kept for over 10 years and never once used – and my brain still told me to keep it! It really made me realize a lot about myself. After the Challenge, I had already had another car load to go and decided to do another month of the challenge. My motivation grew! 🙂 I LOVE getting rid of things!! My house which was draining is becoming new <3 Thanks for your post!

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience Stephanie! I’m so glad you’ve found a way to declutter that works for you and makes you feel excited to declutter. That’s fantastic! I completely agree, we learn a lot about ourselves when we declutter and embrace minimalism. I’m so glad to hear you are experiencing the awesome benefits of decluttering and are enjoying your house again. Thanks for reading 🙂

  18. I enjoyed reading all the blogs of different experiences and tips on how some people approached decluttering. So very inspirational. I am learning not to impulse buy, and only buy when I need something. I have to shop wisely now and not get in to the same shopping habits that caused the problems in the first place. A lot of my purchases I did not use I am able to gift for birthdays and Christmas gifting.

    1. I enjoy reading about how other people approach decluttering and simplifying as well! Changing shopping habits and behaviours is such an important part of the decluttering process, so you are able to maintain your simplified space. Good for you for recognizing and taking action, that’s awesome! And gifting things you bought but didn’t use is a great solution. Thanks for reading and sharing your experiences and insights!

  19. Hi Melissa,
    I have been reading several parts of your blog and enjoying each one! Thank you, thank you! I agree with Doreen, the comments and your replies are very helpful. We recently downsized from a 3,700 sq ft home to a 1,700 sq ft. It made sense, since our daughter is grown. What I have the most problem with is paper clutter. My sister passed away, and her things were left to my Mom. My Dad passed away and I was left his things, then my Mom passed away 12/2015. I focused on all of the paperwork for Mom’s estate and let her mail and my mail build up I have literally thousands of photos from them (ones of my sister with many people I never met I am easily tossing) My husband has been wonderful helping me pack all of the paper in bins for the move but now there is literally NO extra space in our new home (thankfully!) to store this any longer. I feel I have to go through every bin and every paper because some places have social sec #’s on and I get sidetracked coming across something like a greeting card from friends for my birthday. I need to do this quickly because I have company arriving in three weeks. If you walked into my living room and kitchen, you would say it is a beautiful minimalist space. I have put the bins in my bedroom which is beyond frustrating. I am tackling it for hours each day, but it is not happening fast enough. If you or anyone can please give me suggestions for this I will appreciate it more than you know. I will pay for the shredding service in Staples by the pound, because even with the shredder we have, I won’t have enough time to shred it all. I just need ideas to keep me focused to not sidetrack on greeting cards, etc. Should I be tearing off all addresses on all items, or should I trust the shredding company? My big worry is the social security numbers. Many charity organizations send free mailing labels with names and addresses. (I did contact all credit organizations after the death of my family members to help prevent identity theft.)
    ***Please know…my heart is so very sad knowing you lost Aiden. That is the unthinkable for any parent. All other problems are insignificant compared to what you’ve experienced. I know his beautiful spirit has touched countless lives reading your blog. My heart to yours, Melissa. Hugs.*** Thank you in advance for your advice.

    1. Hi Carey, thank you for your comment and kind words. I appreciate your support and kindness about the loss of Aiden. It does make my heart feel good knowing that sharing his story and his life is having a positive impact on others. So thank you for that! <3

      I am sorry to hear you have lost so many members of your family, my thoughts are with you. As far as the paperwork goes, that does sound very overwhelming. I agree that paying to have the paperwork shredded for you is a good idea. Anything you can do to take some of the work off your plate is important. I can understand why sorting through the paperwork is taking so much time. Do you have anyone you could ask to help you sort it? It might be faster and easier for you to have someone helping, especially someone who is not as close to the paperwork and could work through it more objectively and quickly without getting sidetracked. If that's not an option, I think continuing to work through some paperwork every day is a good idea. Try to remind yourself to work quickly. If you come across something you want to look closer at or spend some time looking at, you could set those items aside to look through later. This might help you be able to work quicker. I hope this helps. Good luck as you continue working through it. And remember that even if you're not making progress as quickly as you'd like, you're still making progress and are doing a great thing to clear this paperwork and the clutter it adds to your life. Keep at it and it will get done! Thanks for reading and thanks again for your kind words 🙂

  20. Hi again Melissa,
    I appreciate your reply, especially on the weekend. Your encouragement in the vein of “keep at it and it will get done!” is what I needed to hear. You also gave me permission that I greatly needed, regarding the things that slow me down that need a closer look. I was starting to set that type of thing aside and told myself I shouldn’t- because I was trying to “just eliminate it”. You have abundantly succeeded at minimalism. Having you tell me I may set these things aside to look at later, gives me peace of mind to do just that. My friends in the new area where we live all have things going on right now, so I will continue to do this on my own with your suggestions.
    Thank you for your kind words about family members I have lost. I admire that you are doing this to help others, and that you can even get out of bed each morning with your loss. I’m so thankful you have Emily, who sounds very adventurous! You will always be Aiden’s Mom, and his soul was a vibrant light that was meant for all of us to see. I’m so glad you shared about Aiden in your story. He inspires all of us to remember what is important: people in your life and spending time with them. For sure, I will be thinking of you as I fill several bags with paper that is not of any use. Wishing you the best of everything for you and your family!

    1. I’m glad my suggestions were helpful for you. Thank you for your wonderful reply as well, it really made my day when I read it this morning. Your kindness and love about Aiden are wonderful, thank you.

      Good luck as you continue to declutter. I’d love to hear back from you again to update me on how it’s going. I hope you have a wonderful day!

  21. It’s always inspiring to read another person’s journey with a minimalist lifestyle. I have been cleaning/decluttering for a few years. I became overwhelmed and just realized I only have so much time in the run of a day. My husband and I also have been renovating our older home for the past couple of years so instead of constantly moving stuff that we weren’t using, it was easier to donate them to someone who would use those items. I am constantly reassessing our belongings and lifestyle. We are preparing for a large change in our life where we are planning on relocating to be closer to family. We realized that we only have so much time on this earth so we decided that spending time and making memories with family is more important than making money to pay for the big house and other wants. It is so freeing to just enjoy what we need 🙂

    1. Wow, this is awesome Julia! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I love how you are making choices in your life to live intentionally and let go of the burden “stuff” can bring into our lives. Thanks for reading and sharing your experience, it was such a pleasure to read more about your journey!!

  22. Hi Melissa!
    I want to thank you again for your encouragement and suggestions. You suggested to see if I could get someone to help me. Update: Since all of my friends have important various deadlines of their own, I couldn’t do that…but, without asking or hinting to him, my husband stepped in and helped. He simply said, “I can run things to Goodwill for you.” I told him that some of the many bins of paper would need to go where I would pay for shredding. (telling myself I would not have the added burden to shred everything helped me feel I would see an end in sight) After dropping off the donations he began shredding as I sorted. I started to repeat a mistake I’ve made too many times…making a pile of “save” of too many papers and greeting cards. I stopped myself, remembering that if I hadn’t looked at them in the last 6 months, I could not keep them as both you and Aiden ran through my mind. Aiden has to be your angel up there reaching out to so many of us in ways we probably can’t imagine! Thank you to precious Aiden, too. I wish I could upload a photo…to me this is a miracle, but by Feb. 21st we emptied 29 large bins! I had to set aside 11 bins that are almost all photos and photo albums, of my family and from my family members in Heaven. We stacked the empty bins in our friends garage in case we ever move again. The bins will never again be used for storage. My husband shredded all of the paper, so I don’t even have added cost for that! Your words helped me more than you will ever know. ❤️ Your advice to “keep at it and it will get done!” ran through my mind. We worked 5-6 hours at a time on it.
    ***You also gave me the permission to set tough decisions aside so I could go more quickly. I knew this was true, but before you wrote that to me, I would always tell myself that I shouldn’t put anything aside because I would never get rid of all of it. Pieces of paper with notes, recipes torn out of magazines, those all had to go. Things like a special handprint of my daughter’s at age 5 is saved. Not all, but the best photos, stay. For anyone out there trying to get a quick start with significant headway, take this sage advice from Melissa!***
    My company will be here to stay with us in four days. I am hoping to eliminate 8 of the remaining bins before then. You do get a momentum going, and you do feel free as you see the excess leave. I’ve read many articles and books on how to declutter. You, Melissa, have been the voice that reached me. Your approach of achieving minimalism as being unique to each individual, and your inspirational words… are needed by many of us. Thank you from my heart for helping me to achieve this task faster than I ever dreamed possible! I will be checking here to read the many other success stories inspired by you.
    Wishing you and your family the best of everything in life,
    Carey

    1. Wow, Carey! This is absolutely awesome! What amazing progress you made! Good for you. I bet you feel so proud of all you accomplished and relieved to have so much of the work done. I am so honoured and humbled that I was able to inspire and help you on this journey. Thank you for your kind words about my work and about Aiden. Reading your comment absolutely made my whole week <3 I am so proud of you! It really is amazing what you were able to accomplish. Thank you for keeping me updated and sharing your journey with me! Enjoy your company and wishing you all the best! ~ Melissa

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