Guest Writer: Amber

Monday, August 15, 2016

Voyage to Minimalism
My decision to live a lifestyle of less was something I rather stumbled upon while I was interning as a broke college student some years ago. I had made the decision to pack up only the essential belongings that I owned and track 1200 miles from where I had been living before. I was seeking this said internship not only as a means of gaining experience, but also to pay for a semester of college and some other bills that were past due. It seemed as if I was always a day late and a dollar short, over-committed, but necessary in order to make ends meet.
When I think back on that time in my life, where I rationed my meals provided by my grandmother’s pantry of tuna helper she has hoarded over the years and random canned meats and peanut butter, I can’t help but think of how relieved I felt that I literally appreciated and used everything that was given to me. My choices were slim, but that allowed me more mental capacity to nourish myself with other things I never had the time to do. I finally had time to tune into myself. There wasn’t anything compelling to keep me home, so I explored the city around me. I challenged myself in other ways feeling more fulfilled.
I soon went through a phase of acquiring things a few years later. For so long I had been financially strained that I found ways to improvise and learned how to be super thrifty. I love that about myself. What I don’t love is that the feeling of scoring a great deal on something and carrying it home with you full knowing that I don’t really need it. Everybody has their escapes. I went to goodwill. I mean the sheer joy of spending hours sorting through racks of random things only to find a J.Crew dress only a season old new with tags for $10.  I have never done drugs, but I am sure that is what getting a high would feel like. I felt like I was on top.
Then there would come the time where I would look around and notice that I didn’t have enough hangers to hang things. That I needed to buy new bins to organize. I would spend more time and money finding the perfect storage solutions. I would realize that the very things I was so excited I thrifted and collected for such great deals, were most things that I never wore. I would then enter this despair and purge everything I just acquired to not feel suffocated by my possessions. The cycle was vicious and unrelenting until recently.
I am just exhausted. All. The. Time. It’s not in a I just spent the last hour kicking it out at Zumba or all day at the park kind of exhausted. It’s more of an “I’m exhausted by my stuff”.  I think back at my time when practicing minimalism was my lifestyle because it had to be and not because I was choosing it, I felt I was so much more mindful and in touch with myself. It was amazing. I wanted to feel that again.
So after I ended my spring semester of school I decided to shake up my perspective and take an impromptu trip to Europe. I gave myself a budget and a suitcase and restricted souvenirs. I slept on couches and rode public transportation and restricted myself to grocery stores for food. I learned a lot about myself in this two week self-journey. I also realized that yet again, I packed so much stuff I felt judged by my material possession by the Europeans I shared space with. I stuck out like a sore thumb with my big luggage. I myself was burdened by it. I was a slave to my belongings on a very real level. I paid extra money on flights and trains because my luggage exceeded the weight limits.
When I came back to the States I knew that this was it. My material possessions were holding me back from happiness. I of course began my born-again journey to minimalism by reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I liked that she suggests to say “thank you” to items that have served their purpose before sending them to donation etc. It feels good to acknowledge the item and then pass it on. For whatever reason, I felt it easier to go on a purging rampage by saying those two words repetitively and I actually meant it. It felt like I was creating positive and gracious energy around me by just being nice.
I next started to realize that I just saved myself so much time and energy by deciding that no longer would I fill my time with searching for deals at the grocery store or decorating my house. I would instead be filling my time with experiences. I went tubing and camping with my friends. I attended concerts by volunteering my time with environmental and human rights organizations. I visited family members I haven’t seen in a while. I started doing things that actually made me happy.
There is definitely a balance here and it isn’t always about “getting rid of stuff” with minimalism. I noticed, it is also a reassessment of how we spend our time on things that are not efficient or we don’t really care about. I was so bad about this! I would attend things because I thought it would look great on my resume or just to say I did it were my excuses. In reality I should have been engaged in the things I truly felt I knew I could accomplish (and still be challenged of course). It was time to start making myself unavailable to the people and things that took my attention for granted and who also did not bring me joy.
My minimalism approach is a lot like yoga. I must practice it every-day and it does keep me mindful of bringing less into my environment and to live in the moment. I have struggles with getting overwhelmed and wanting to just lock everything I was sorting through in a closet and never seeing it again. I also struggle with attaching items with sentiment. As my journey continues my energy and space are increasing and that leaves room for more joy. From one practicing minimalism to another, I wish you joy in your journey.


  1. Thanks for sharing your story; it resonated with me. I'm working through the Marie Kondo method too.