5 Questions: Q&A with an “Expert” Minimalist

A high school speech kid reached out to me yesterday; she’s writing an informative speech on minimalism and wanted to speak with “an expert.” If only she knew how little I know!

But seriously, she asked some really thoughtful questions about my minimalist journey—questions I get all the time. I know she’s not alone in wanting to know more about this kind of life, so here’s a snapshot of what we discussed.

1. When were you interested in living this lifestyle?

Minimalism first piqued my interest in 2012. I was living in a small apartment in a big city, with lots of stuff and not much space. At the time I was teaching in Montessori environment; in the Montessori classroom there is a designated spot for each and every thing, and the space is beautifully free of clutter. (Montessori itself isn’t “minimalism” per se, but they have a lot in common.) Letting things breathe, making room for my head and heart, made a lot of sense that dreary, cramped winter—I’d seen that even toddlers could learn how to do it! Since then I’ve started to think about minimalism as more of a worldview (although it certainly still does play a major role in my physical space). But now it plays a part in what I eat, how I conduct business, what I say, and what I commit to, too.

2. By living a minimalist way, have you saved money?

Yes and no. Every time I don’t buy something I want and would have just gone ahead and gotten before I started thinking and living this way, I save money. But in some ways, minimalism costs more: you buy less, but better, which can be expensive up front. And if you purge things you don’t use, or want, or need—or things that don’t “bring you joy”—you sort of feel like you’re throwing money out the window. And if you end up replacing those things because you actually do need them, that’s exactly what you’re doing!

3. How did you start minimizing items, clothes, etc?

Reading blogs like Miss Minimalist and The Daily Connoisseur helped me design my first capsule closet, which is where I began. I started by asking, “What can I live without? What am I willing to get rid of?” As I gained confidence, I moved from my closet to the rest of the house. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Joy of Less, and L’art de la Simplicité, which are more about keeping only the things you can’t do without.

In terms of logistics, I just started dropping clothes off at consignment stores and recycling centers; household items went mostly to thrift stores or loved ones. I’ve sold some things, but that takes time and energy I don’t always have to give. A lot of minimalists recommend moving quickly so you’re not tempted to keep things you’ve decided to let go. You get less of your money back, but that money is already gone.

4. Do you think living this lifestyle has made you feel better about the clutter in your household?

Yes and no. My personal things have a place, and that gives me a sense of calm and balance. But minimalism is easy to do on your own. It’s harder to implement in a shared household, especially if you don’t discover the philosophy together. Navigating the “stuff” conversations and decluttering with your partner or children can be tricky. Sometimes I have to stop myself from throwing away stuff that’s not mine, and we as a group have more stuff than I’d like, but I’m not the only one who has to live comfortably in our home. We have to find our “right amount” together.

5. How was your family when you transitioned to living this lifestyle?

You’d have to ask my husband! 🙂 Our son was born into minimalism, so he doesn’t really know the difference. But he does love going to daycare and friends’ homes to play with what must feel like mountains of toys!

My extended family members and work wives, for the most part, think I’m ridiculous, but maybe they’ll come around some day. I like to remind them that there’s a “right amount” for everyone. For some it’s more, and others less. All that matters is that we honor the amount that’s right for us.

So that’s what the Minnesota speech community can look forward to learning this season. Let’s wish our student-friend luck as she shares our story all around the state!


What about you, friends? What questions do you still have? What would you like to see in a future post? Comment below to let me know!

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Minimalism Update: Two Things I’ve Learned in the Last Four Years

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After four years on my minimalist journey, here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. I’m pretty good at purging.
  2. I’m also pretty good at bringing in new things to fill the empty space.

Until recently I’ve approached minimalism with a feast-or-famine mentality: I’ve done really well at resisting “stuff” for a while, but then I’ve felt the need to reward myself for resisting said stuff, so I’ve treated myself to more stuff. And then I’ve felt guilty for bringing in more things, so I’ve purged, and replaced, and purged, and replaced. It’s an expensive, exhausting, and unnecessary cycle. But it’s just felt like the thing to do.

It wasn’t until I came to terms with wanting more out of life that I understood and really, truly, started to want less. My son’s arrival has made me want more of everything that makes life worth living:

  • Time
    Love
    Health
    Security
    Adventure
    Generosity

And in order to make room for these things that matter so much to me, I have to learn to (and want to) let go of the things that don’t:

  • Debt
    Worry
    Possessions
    Perfection

I’ve got a long way to go in the next four years. I’ve got a mind, home, and schedule to clear. I’ve got more concrete priorities to set. But the good news is I can let go. Now I just need to learn to keep that space free.


What have you learned on your minimalist journeys?