5 Benefits from a Year of Minimalism

From late 2014 going into early 2015, I met a lot of people who would play very short but extremely influential roles in my life. These were travellers going to and from Jamaica, with great stories of travel and triumph.

They ranged from executives to freelancers to hippies living on minimum wage from a camera shop. But they all shared the same advice. If I wanted to experience true freedom, I should get rid of my possessions.

I had always owned a lot of stuff – mostly because I do believe stuff are more reliable than people. My computer never cancels on me, never lies, never cheats, or neglects to tend to its duties. I could say the same of my smart phone, and my camera. And when they do – well, they are easily replaceable. That was what I loved most about my stuff.

Even so, the advice I received rung true the more and more I heard it, and so I spent early 2015 going into the summer, getting rid of my things month by month. By the time I made it to June 30, 2015, I could live out of a suitcase, and did exactly that for months.

So what did I learn now that it’s been roughly eighteen months since I embraced a more minimalist lifestyle? What were the benefits of giving up roughly 90 percent of what I own?

1. Traveling More 

I would be lying if I said minimalism alone made travel possible for me. I’ve been travelling internationally since I was nine years old, between Jamaica and the United States. However, you’d be surprised how much more affordable travel becomes when you don’t need to pay rent every month.

Alice in Wonderland.

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Giving up my corporate job, which was a form of going minimalist in itself, also freed me to travel on a whim. I don’t need to ask a boss for days off, or find someone else to cover my shift. All I need to do is hop on the road, and bring my smartphone and laptop with me.

This allowed me to travel around the island quite a bit before I left, and took me to many states across America. In the past year alone I’ve travelled to Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky, and New York. I’ve also seen quite a bit of Illinois and Georgia – more so than other states.

2. Moving Becomes a Breeze

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Along with the ease of travel, there’s also the ease of moving. When I first came to America, I mostly distributed my time and things between my parents’, friends, and my  would-be-husband’s apartments.

When it became apparent I would stay, my parents began looking for a new house with a basement apartment. We moved in the spring. It took my parents a U-Haul, two cars, and several trips over the course of a few days to move. It took me one trip.

3. Saves Money for Bigger Goals

As I mentioned before, once you stop paying rent and a mortgage, you have a lot more income to work with.

Of course, now that we’ve taken over a basement apartment in the suburbs I can’t escape rent, but it’s a far cry lower than the cost of living virtually anywhere else in Atlanta – less than half the cost of Michael’s last apartment, in a not-so-great part of town.

That leaves money to put towards buying my first car; renovating the basement to meet our specific needs; and paying for his college education.

4. Less Responsibility = Less Stress

Once I stopped looking for more things to buy and started looking for things to let go of, my life became much less stressful. It forced me to see my possessions in a whole new light. Rather than worry and inwardly complain about all the things I didn’t have, it forced me to see that I already had too much.

When I decided to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle, I also made the difficult decision to re-home my dog. Though I do miss my dog especially, I don’t miss the responsibility of owning one.

Now that I’m settling into a new home, I recently adopted another cat. I chose a cat over a dog for a number of reasons. Cats are more independent, less needy, and require less time and money to care for.

And finally, if you leave out enough clean litter boxes, water, and food for a cat, you can leave them home alone for a couple of days and ask a friend to drop by every so often. That means way more flexibility to travel. Try that with a dog…

5. No Clutter = More Flexibility

However, minimalism doesn’t always mean quitting your job and eventually migrating to a whole new country. It doesn’t even need to mean giving up your home, and all your pets. It simply means learning to de-clutter and to do less with more. This was one of the things I enjoyed most about minimalism when I still had my bachelorette pad in Jamaica.

Many people remarked that my apartment was very well decorated and organised, but bare. “Why not get more furniture, or decorations?” they suggested.

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But the fact that I didn’t, meant that when I had big sleepovers, I practically moved nothing to make space for people to sleep on the floor. When I wanted to play Wii, the only thing I needed to move was one chair. I also had less things to dust, wash, sweep, and organise.

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I had so much space in my apartment, that on occasion I even played fetch inside with my 60-pound Black Labrador Retriever — and didn’t break a thing, not once.

Embracing a more minimalist lifestyle has freed me physically and financially to pursue dreams I wasn’t able to go chasing before. Letting go of my possessions also allowed me to hold on to far more valuable things in life; like experiences, and great people.

It taught me that my devices weren’t the only reliable things in my life. The friendships and networks I had built up over the years were often times, not just equally dependable, but far more valuable.

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81 thoughts on “5 Benefits from a Year of Minimalism

  1. I’ve always considered myself a collector. I like to collect things. Knowing that, i try to limit what I allow myself to collect, if only to limit how much space I use up. Last year we moved into a house a lot smaller than the one we were living in at the time. We got rid of a bunch of furniture and clothes and other items. Since then we’d done a number of goodwill and salvation army runs as well, continuing to simplify our lives. It’s nice having more space, in the space that we have. I doubt I’ll ever truly get to the minimalist status that most people talk about though. Mostly because I have too many books.

    1. Books are my downfall too – but they don’t take up too much room until you try and move them (which is when I curse them). I try to use the public library as much as possible, but when a book really affects me I want to keep it visible in my life, and come back to it sometimes.

      1. I tried digital versions, and a I do use an ereader for travel, but I don’t find they have the same effect on my thoughts and memory as books on my shelf do. I prefer reading a physical book to, it seems to stick more. I guess it’s about choosing what matters to you enough to let it take up space in your life. Different for everyone. (Sounds so obvious when you put it like that!)

      2. I can understand that. I think one of the main reasons I prefer tablets too is that I can read in the dark. Even my kindle gets left behind when it comes to night time reading.

    1. Thank you! I hate to say it, but travelling is how I accumulated so much stuff in the first place. I shopped til I dropped every summer and Christmas I spent in America. That accounted for a lot of my ‘baggage’. It was so freeing to let it all go.

  2. I went with a team of teachers to Jamaica. We flew over and back separately. I stayed in a big hotel, and in a large room, across from one of the teachers who came. I didn’t know her before she came, and I left by myself since I got there first. It was quite an experience. I didn’t go to De Graul, and I’m not sure of the spelling. I was impressed with this place, and found some one who said special prayers for me. He shouted through most of his prayer. I am forever grateful.

      1. I don’t know the spelling, so it may be the confusion. It is another city on the island. It takes about two hours to get there. I hung back with a slight throat problem. How about de Gaul?

      2. We had to pay our own expenses. It was to see the place, and to meet together. I don’t know why we were there, but there were several of us, and all were new to me except my principal. I think it was a study in how to get along with other teachers, and my principal. I flew back by myself, because my time was up. They came a day or more later than I did. I few back like I knew where to go. Ed met me, and we never discussed another Educational trip.

  3. Get post! I really liked the part about saving money for bigger goals. I always believed in doing whatever floats my boat and whatever blows my skirt up. That does not include buying everyday material things that people choose to buy to make themselves feel content.

    1. Agree about saving for bigger goals; it’s so easy to get distracted by short term wants and spend all your money on them, then have nothing left for the big things you want to do (travel for me!). Just have to keep reminding yourself what you really want.

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