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.
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
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.
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.
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.
82 thoughts on “5 Benefits from a Year of Minimalism”
This post speaks to me! 💕
Haha, I’m glad it does. I think more millennials should consider embracing a more minimalist way of living.
Alexis you inspire me. I am a mom, a wife and trapped in a corporate world. I have embraced minimalism for almost a year now but not as much as you did. Cheers to your wonderful life! And to your site. I so love this post. 💜
Thank you! I’m glad you found this post inspiring. It is a lot harder to achieve a minimalist lifestyle with kids about, so I commend you for trying.
You should apply to our Mother’s Day contest. We might be able to help “un-trap” you from corporate, or at least get you started on the right path: https://www.slideshare.net/AlexisChateauPR/alexis-chateau-pr-mothers-day-contest
All the best!
I moved a few months back, bringing with me all of the “necessities”. Three months later, and half of the clothing that I’d brought had been untouched, along with other various things. Obviously not necessities, eh? I gathered everything together that I hadn’t used and distributed it all to charity shops and clothing banks. So freeing, as you say. Currently working on getting it down to fit into a single bag ahead of some travels.
Thanks for posting this!
Hi Cam, you’re so welcome!
I know what you mean. Two nights ago I did a bit of throwing out myself. It’s good to make it a habit instead of a one-time thing.
If you’re looking for a basic how-to as you continue, here is the followup I wrote to the one you read: https://alexischateau.com/2016/08/01/how-to-embrace-minimalism-without-living-in-the-woods/
Alexis, you are a kindred spirit my friend. Nice to read about another who is on the same journey. I will be checking back for more inspiration. Great blog. 🙂
Thank you! I’m glad you found it inspiring and can relate. What encouraged you to pursue a more minimalist lifestyle?
Did you find getting rid of stuff addictive? We had been trying to cut down on stuff for a couple of years before we left on a round the world trip, and as it got closer to leaving we went all out and got rid of probably 90% of our stuff. The more we got rid of the more we realised we didn’t need, and that a lot of this stuff just causes stress from the clutter and guilt at not using it enough. I found myself walking round our flat trying to spot things to get rid of on a fairly regular basis!
Yes, it does become addictive over time. Even now, I get a slight high from tossing things out. Similarly, amassing too much stuff makes me anxious.
I’m so interested in minimalism, this is great!
You should give it a whirl. I’ve enjoyed it. Last night I cleaned house again and donated quite a bit of my stuff to charity. The emptier my home the better I feel haha