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.

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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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82 thoughts on “5 Benefits from a Year of Minimalism

  1. love this! before we had children we tried to do the ‘live with under 400 things’ and we were almost there! then we moved abroad for our masters with just one suitcase – happiest year ever given all the resons you mentione here. It is really so liberating!

    Now we have 2 kids – omg they come with a bunch of stuff! but as they are getting older I am thinking of challenging ourselves to reduce our stuff by 10% a year…mmm. Not sure how easy it will be with them around but if all else fails we plan to sell it all and have nothing to do this again and travel around with one suitcase. Freedom!

    I love your inspiring story.

    1. If you manage to do this with kids, you make sure you write a post about it so I can go back to it if I finally pop out any of my own haha. Even with pets, minimalism is difficult.

      Traveling light is also a great way to practice minimalism. I once traveled with one sandwich bag of clothes in my suitcase just to prove a point. There was nothing else in it. My friends didn’t believe me so I took a picture haha.

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Always a great pleasure to hear from readers.

  2. I’ve always believed in minimalism. Because, the you don’t need a bigger house, and definitely less stuff to worry about! You’ve done a fantastic job of making your life so much simpler. It’s really a wonderful way to lead a life. Cheers 🙂

  3. Wow. I am really inspired by this. I would like to de-clutter, because I tend to “collect” things and I really like my “collections.” But I think I’ll start to clean out the clutter, because I like space more.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Not for everyone, though, what a great experience for you. I know I enjoy minimalism rather than it’s opposite. Then again, comfort is also a joy… Perhaps comfortable minimalism is the way… 🙂

    1. Can’t seem to figure out why WordPress keeps unapproving your comment. I hope that’s fixed now. But yes it was much easier without all the extra clutter.

  5. Alexis, thank you for the great post. I believe many people would love to follow in your steps and discard all their belongings for a carefree life. That’s a huge step, especially when you’re bogged down with years of responsibilities. I would assume it’s a process that needs to be taken a step at a time. I applaud you for your courage!

    1. Thank you Denise. I think many people like the idea but not so much the act itself. I did take my time to work my way there over the course of six months. It was a great experience.

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