Monday, January 8, 2018

Simplifying my life. The stages I went through when choosing the minimal lifestyle

Sometimes it seems like the path less traveled.
In a recent post I mentioned how I returned from thruhiking the Appalachian Trail (you can find the post here a changed person. I came home and was horrified by many aspects of my previous life and quickly became disgusted with all the needless stuff I had accumulated. The funny thing was I had actually downsized prior to my hike because I was storing stuff at my boyfriends and didn’t want to take up so much of his space. I should have returned and been happy to see all my things again after being away for six months. Instead I found myself continuously shaking my head and picking up items thinking “why did I ever think I needed this.” 

Believe it or not being disgusted with all of my stuff (and past decisions) is what helped me to make a real effort to change. I resolved to go through ALL of my things and eliminate what I didn’t need. But I didn’t stop there, I also resolved to not buy a single item I didn’t need AND to not buy any clothing for at least a year. 

It’s funny how not buying things, not going window shopping and especially not replacing worn clothing items makes you more aware of the needless consumption going on around you. I remember having to bite my tongue as coworkers complained they didn’t have enough money because of the Christmas shopping spree they had just got back from. I remember having to go into a department store and actually turning around because I wondered why we needed so many of the same items in one place. But the biggest change came when I actually needed to replace an item. I didn’t want to just go out and buy any old item. I wanted that item to be ethically made. I wanted the process to make that item to be environmentally friendly. I wanted to make sure that the said item was not made by children or in a sweat shop and that the actual people who made that item were paid appropriately. These are all things I had never considered before. In buying less I had become more aware of who my purchase might hurt. I wanted to make sure that all of my purchases helped someone rather than causing harm.

After a few years had passed I realized that this is a continuous process. The items I had chosen to keep when I first returned from my hike I didn’t necessarily need. Most of them were things that I thought I still needed. Over time my perception changed and I continued to pare down the items I own. I think it is an ongoing process that will likely span the rest of my life. The other thing I have realized is that as I eliminated the extra stuff and the junk I started to feel less tied down and more free to do whatever I wanted. I never really thought that I was a slave to my stuff before. But honestly I have spent most of my life working hard to pay for big places I didn’t need just to have my nice things in them.  I realize I have accomplished more of my life goals (you know the list of things on your bucket list that we usually never get around to) in the past four years than I have in my entire life. I’d like to think that it is because I have freed of some of my income by buying less, owning less and by having a more simple lifestyle. I realize there may be a few other factors in there that helped contribute to this. Today as I look around my 80 square foot living space I can still see items I don’t need or have to have. I wonder where this process will lead me. Thanks for reading. If you went through a different process in your journey to a more simple life please share it in the comments below so that others can learn from us!

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