Sept. 19, 2011
While Lindsay is traveling, we have a guest post about making positive life changes and the journey to a minimalist lifestyle. Enjoy!
Hi All! I'm so excited to be featured here on HH and share my journey with you about how living a minimalist lifestyle has changed my life for the better.
In my mind, any story related to minimalism and materialism has to begin with one's money story. Here's my (extremely shortened) version: I grew up poor and perceived money to be the bad guy who also happens to brings joy and ease (you know, that guy!). I put myself through high school and college by working numerous jobs (up to 5 at a time) and experienced a lot of resentment towards those who I perceived "had it easy." After graduating in May 2010 I began working full-time and felt like I had made it big: I was making significantly more than many people in my family and could afford to invest in "nice" things - those $40 jeans that don't need to be hemmed, organic produce, etc. I got caught up in making more and more $$ through my party-planning business and was essentially working 7 days a week, sometimes doing 5 parties between Thursday and Sunday in addition to my full-time day job. I was a rising star in my business and my name was on the radar with some of the company's top individuals. I essentially was set for success!
Then things began to fall apart. My long-term boyfriend nearly broke up with me. I went to my company's convention and discovered deep-rooted feelings of worthlessness and discontent. I realized how lonely I was, living in a new city and working alone at both my day job and in my business.
I wandered around in this disconnected fog for months. In the meantime, medical school rejection letters started coming in and business started to decline. I felt lost and dazed…in a state of inertia. I spent increasing amounts of time online, connecting with the blogger personalities who had become some of my closest friends, and made excuse after excuse to not meet up with others. I invested in myself by purchasing an e-course with Dr. Lissa Rankin; I never completed it. I saw a shaman who told me that my hips, my root chakra, were a mess and that this was likely the cause of many of my worries.
In April I saw that Dr. Rankin was leading a retreat at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires of MA. I didn't read the description, I just signed up. For whatever reason, knowing the retreat would be amazing or just meeting someone who is a huge inspiration to me, I knew I had to go. The morning of the retreat saw me in tears, rushing, frustrated with the medical community and my state of unrest. Momma told me to just go and enjoy myself…to take pleasure in the beautiful ride down the Mass Pike and to just escape.
I went knowing no one. I swore off technology for three days - no phones, no internet, nothing. It turned out to be the hardest and most rewarding weekend of my life. I went to those dark places within ourselves that we avoid so much. I sobbed like it was the only thing that could save me. I spoke openly about inner demons who I had never mentioned before. I meditated, journaled, and began to heal. I danced like a maniac, let go of expectation and judgment, and transformed.
Around the same time as my retreat, Lindsay started writing her Minimalist Monday posts. After a weekend with no technology, a ton of human connection, and minimal resources, I felt myself pulled towards this lifestyle. While, admittedly, her bare kitchen countertops scared me, the underlying message to SIMPLIFY made itself comfortable right next to my heart. Lindsay's posts gave me ideas to manifest this new mindset in my physical life as well.
In came the kitchen reorganization, out went the pots and pans that were damaged and the broken appliances from past tenants. In came the new, bright streamlined bathroom, out went the mess (and stuff from past tenants). In came a reading nook, light, and SPACE in my room, out went an entire dresser's worth of clothing and three pieces of furniture. I cleaned and reorganized every room in my life, from my bedroom to my office at work. Every time I finished a project, I felt this huge sense of relief and release. I felt the negative energy rushing from me as I let go of all of the STUFF that had accumulated, most of it meaningless, over the years. I had more energy, satisfaction, and joy.
I started practicing the item-in/item-out philosophy and now think twice before making any purchases. I kept journaling and walking early in the morning. I began listening to my body and taking it easy when I was hurt. I reached out to my mentors (Lindsay included) and began participating in tele-seminars and workshops. I started budgeting my money, saving for retirement, and tuning in to my intuition. I spend more time cooking and living out my yoga practice than being distracted by technology. I limited my TV and internet usage now use these only for a purpose. I consciously limited the number of parties I would host to 2-4 per month and learned to say "No" four times each day. I am living simply, minimalistically, purposefully.
But it isn't always been easy. There are weeks where I stray from my path, frustrated by work, travel, and life in general. I'm still struggling to find a balance in my life between what society tells me I have to do (e.g. stay with my current job to gain additional experience and accolades) and what my inner pilot light/intuition tell me I have to do (e.g. live my life!). I still get distracted by the escape of internet, tv, and a good book, those things which allow you to avoid sitting with your inner thoughts. Sometimes I forget to live and move with purpose and intention rather than mindlessly. I still worry about money and the bills (who doesn't?) and have to consciously decide to not pick up my business' pace again.
Furthermore, not everyone understands this new lifestyle of mine. The reactions fall into one of two categories: those that dislike it and those that are in awe of it. In the former category there are the individuals who are offended if I do not respond to their call/e-mail/text/comment/msg/etc immediately or who look at my strangely when they find out that I own exactly one pair of PJ pants. In the latter are those who pour on excessive praise and espouse about how impossible such a lifestyle would be for them. I used to think that too. I was addicted to spending and collecting stuff. Now I have less and yet feel that I have more.
As I continue on my minimalist journey, I know that there will still be obstacles and distractions at every turn. I'm easily distracted and excessively empathetic so I know that sometimes I'll sacrifice my minimalist morals to please others. But that is why life is a journey and we learn as we go. That is why I surround myself with as many people as possible who are also choosing to live this life and encourage others, without judgement or preachiness, to explore this as an option for their lives. And that is why I continue to live as I do, because living with purpose allows us to see each obstacle, mistake, and distraction as a learning opportunity, a chance to grow. We are able to sit with these negatives and just look at them without judging. We are able to relish the victories and enjoy the simple things and truly appreciate the roses we all too frequently stop and smell.
If you're looking for past Minimalist Monday posts, here's a few links to get you started:
Minimalist: Sticking to a Color Palette (When Traveling and Beyond)
Minimalist: Removing Toxic People, Unhealthy Relationships
Minimalist: Email Management
Minimalist: Closet Organization
Minimalist: Organizing Your Pantry
Minimalist: Kitchen Makeover