About a year and a half ago, I started identifying as a minimalist. This lifestyle has been life-changing for me, right up there with real food and nutritional therapy. But it wasn't until I sat down to write this post that I realized that my minimalism journey actually started more than 8 years ago, and that was a bit of an eye-opening self-realization.
I got married to my college sweetheart when I was 21-years-old. From the outside looking in, we had a great life together. He had a high-paying job as an engineer, and I made decent money as a nurse. I was in graduate school for health care administration, and my career path promised even higher pay with better hours. Within a few years of getting married, we were able to purchase a rental property in a coveted neighborhood in a quaint Michigan suburb, and then we moved into a 3,000-square foot home on 3 acres. My husband started gutting and renovating every square inch of the house. It was slowly turning into a gorgeous, Home & Garden-worthy property, but the more that we worked on the house, the more unhappy and dissatisfied I became with our life together.
My husband loved his job, and he worked very hard. Too hard, I thought. I was home alone in that enormous house a lot of the time. I would often wander from room to room simply in awe of all of the space. I had grown up in a fairly modest house, and I wasn't used to such luxury. I would wonder, "Why do two people need all of this space?" and "What are we going to do with all of this?".
When he wasn't working long hours at his job, my husband spent all of his spare time working on the house. I recall one defining moment when I wanted to take a vacation, and he decided that he would prefer to stay home to work on renovations. Now, he wasn't a bad person for that, and I want to make it very clear there is nothing wrong with his lifestyle choices and his desire to work hard to build a "better" life. Even though we are divorced now, my ex-husband is a good, kind-hearted person who treated me well, and I have nothing but fond memories of our time together. Indeed, if anything, it was I that was at fault for not being satisfied with the trajectory of life that so many Americans desire, and in my youth and immaturity, not knowing what it was that I wanted out of life.
I didn't see the path that we were on as a "better" life. What I was craving was a simpler, more fulfilling life. I was very unsatisfied with my nursing career at that time, and not terribly excited about the prospects of working in health care administration either. I felt quite stuck in my career because I had to make decent money in order to contribute to the household, and of course, to pay back the student loans that I had accumulated in grad school. I had never enjoyed living in Michigan, and I wanted the freedom to move elsewhere and live a life that would feel more authentic to me. I didn't need or want a huge house that required constant upkeep, fancy cars, or a cushy, yet soul-sucking job. I didn't want to live in a place that I felt the need to escape on a regular basis. I didn't want to see my husband only in passing and spend little quality time together. I started to realize that I had made a lot of major life decisions without much consideration for what was most important to me and the kind of life that I wanted to build.
At the time, I had no idea that what I was feeling or the hard decisions that I was facing had anything to do with minimalism. I'm still learning how to live life powerfully, but my eyes are open now and I am on the path. To me, minimalism is a means of clearing the distractions from life so that you can focus on what you value the most. Minimalism is not quantifiable and it looks different for everyone. Being a minimalist does not mean that you must live in a sterile, tiny home, or travel the world with only a backpack, or only own 100 material possessions. Being a minimalist also doesn't mean that you can't live in a large home, or have a garage full of cars, or a closet stocked with designer clothing. If those things bring joy, happiness, and fulfillment into your life, then you should pursue them consciously and with full intention. Minimalism is simply a tool to help you get clear on what brings joy to your life, and most often, people discover that it is not things at all that bring them the most joy.
Several years after my divorce and after more life changes than I can count, a post by a Facebook friend (Kristi of FoodieRN.com) about decluttering her closet and following a capsule wardrobe captured my attention. I followed the advice about putting together a capsule wardrobe on the Un-Fancy blog, and I was soon blown away by how much more time I had each morning, how much easier life felt simply from getting my closet in order, and how much money I was saving by not indulging in my shopping addiction. Then, I read "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. The book is not just about decluttering and organizing your home, although it will certainly help you to do that. I see it as a starting point for discovering minimalism, although not everyone who follows the "Konmari Method" identifies as a minimalist. However, the book's message is centered on learning how to clear the clutter in your life and intentionally surround yourself only with things that bring you joy.
I'm excited to share more about my experiences with minimalism on this blog. For the past several years, I've focused only on real food and natural movement topics, and I see minimalism as the next evolution in my ancestral health journey. Minimalism is not discussed within the Paleo community, and in fact, it seems that more and more leaders in the community are promoting products and services that encourage materialism. Clutter and the things that you own have a profound effect on your mental and physical health, not to mention the environmental and humanitarian impact. Our ancestors did not live with the burden of stuff as we do in today's modern society and this should be a critical topic of discussion in the ancestral health and wellness sphere.
What are YOUR thoughts on minimalism? Share in the comments below!