Tuesday Go Ponder (Guest Blog Post!): Moving Towards a Minimalist Lifestyle

I’m super excited to introduce the awesome Becky Leung, who’s writing to us today about her evolution moving towards a minimalist lifestyle…read this then go ponder and tell us what’s inspired you reading this, or add your own suggestions in the comments!

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I used to own a lot of things, things I thought I loved. I didn’t use these things enough, yet I still connected to them on an emotional level simply because I used my own money to buy them.

These “things” were purses, clothing, shoes, makeup, and tech gadgets. A few years ago, I spent much of my free time shopping and browsing, looking up designer bags I couldn’t afford, “pinning” outfits that were way out of my price range on Pinterest, and going into stores to try on clothes and makeup. That was my life…

Pretty pathetic, right?

Honestly, I don’t know what made me obsessed with these material items. Did I spend too much time on social media? Did I spend too much time talking about all these material items, allowing it to consume me to the point that all I wanted to do was shop during my free time? Was I envious of my peers for purchasing their second homes, owning designer items, and traveling to places I only dreamed of? Probably all of the above.

I started racking up credit card debt rapidly. I never slipped into the trouble zone where I couldn’t afford to pay my bills or mortgage, but if I wasn’t half-monitoring what I was spending, it would’ve spiraled out of control. But my story lies beyond just getting my financial sh*t together; I improved my life forever by deciding to live minimally. This decision didn’t come easily – it wasn’t until my world was shaken up that I discovered my current philosophies.

In 2012, I experienced my first layoff. It was so completely unexpected and I didn’t see the mass layoffs coming from miles away. Until then, I had spent my time working long hours, going above and beyond in my role, and really enjoying the workaholic that I was. It was then that I realized that one event, in this case a layoff, could take away everything I was passionate about and give me a huge ass-whooping. My job was gone and all I had left was all the material items that suddenly held no meaning for me at all. That emotional connection I felt with my designer bag? Now I wanted to sell it on eBay immediately. That tablet I only used three times? Maybe I should donate it to Goodwill.

After I landed another job, I decided that it was time for things to change. I yearned to feel genuinely happy and live a life with purpose; I didn’t want to live a life filled with material items that only made me feel empty. Slowly I made progress toward becoming a minimalist.

But what is minimalism? According to TheMinimalists.com:

Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.

I completely agree with this definition and it definitely aligns to the lifestyle I would love to achieve. As a former shopaholic and over-spender, I made baby steps to become a happier, more minimalistic person. Here are the approaches to minimalist that have changed my life in the last few years:

  • I cut out cable TV. I found it was a great way to save money, plus I now use that time to spend my evenings with friends and loved ones. (not to mention, more time to run and exercise!)
  • Giving away clothing I knew I’d never wear again allowed me to sell in-demand items on eBay. Then I used that money toward paying off my credit card debt.
  • I decluttered my home. One month, I had to make six trips to either Goodwill or the dumpster – that’s how much unnecessary junk I owned!
  • Saving my money became increasingly important. After someone hit my car without leaving a note, my car looked less than stellar. Instead of shelling out $1,000 to fix the dent, I knew I could use that money for important items like paying for my trip to my friend’s wedding. If it drives and you can manage looking at that ugly dent, save your money.
  • I started cooking my breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home. Not only does this help my waistline, but it also helps me from blowing my hard-earned paychecks by dining out. As much as I love dining out in Portland, I don’t need to do this five days a week.
  • Run-commuting has become absolutely vital to me! This way of commuting to work has changed my life dramatically, and I have only done this for over a month. In the past, I spent up to 2 hours a day commuting to work but now I have time to get my run mileage in and stay in shape, all while avoiding traffic. I also feel happy knowing I’m creating a better environment by reducing my carbon footprint.
  • I started shopping a LOT LESS. Once I began paying off my debt in higher amounts than usual, I realized how much money and time I wasted by over-shopping. Unless it’s running related or I have to get ready for someone’s wedding, I do my best to avoid shopping stores. I will occasionally have a craving for new clothes and, if I find myself not shopping for myself, I only buy essentials.
  • No longer do I blow money on extravagant gifts. For example, I love my boyfriend dearly, but buying so-called sentimental romantic gifts he will eventually throw away is pointless. Instead, we spend time together hiking, mountain biking, or sharing a delicious meal – it’s much more meaningful and memorable!
  • There is now A LOT MORE running/hiking/biking/kayaking/playing outside in my life. Without TV, constant shopping, and an extreme work schedule, I have more free time… I can use this time to play more. I feel the most alive when I’m out in nature. I have recently taken up trail running and now I’m completely addicted to it. It’s a valuable use of my time as it helps me get my mileage in while enjoying nature – it’s so much better than spending money on stupid, useless things that added no value to my life.
  • I decided to stop spending time and energy talking to people who do not make me feel good about myself. Unfortunately, I’ve encountered too many people who made me feel insecure about myself. Instead of lifting me up, they dragged me down. Those people are not worth keeping in your life. Ever since I let go of toxic people, my life has dramatically improved because there is no toxicity in my life.
  • Now I surround myself with people who lift me up. This point may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get sucked into negative people’s lives. If you are around people who make you happy, it is near impossible to feel down about yourself.
  • Learning how to be financially independent is essential. In other words, pay your own bills on time, never rely on anyone for money, and don’t buy more than you can afford. Credit cards should be used for emergencies, not for handbags you can only afford in three month payments.

Now that I have been moving toward a minimalist lifestyle, I can safely say that I’ve become more alive, more aware, and, most importantly, happier. When you declutter your life, you have room to focus on the important, non-material items – the only ‘important’ things that you need.

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