Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.
2013 wasn’t the year I expected it to be. In late 2012, I graduated with my Master’s, started my doctorate, and began a new job—my dream job. The new job lasted for only six weeks before I was laid off. Then I began several miserable months of unemployment. During this time, besides wallowing and fervently searching for a job, I had to go overseas for family reasons. Luckily, I had some savings for the unexpected trip, and there I was—traveling to the other side of the world with just a small piece of luggage and handbag. While overseas, not only did I have my mind off of disheartening unemployment, but I also turned to minimalism.
On the island country where I was located, I don’t think the word “minimalism” is even used—it’s their way of life. Homes were simply made and had just the basics: table and chairs in the kitchen; a couch, table, and maybe a television in the living room; and a bed and nightstand in the bedroom. On average, people had a dozen items in their wardrobe, including two pairs of shoes—a pair of sandals and a pair of tennis shoes.
Food had simple, fresh ingredients: fresh rice, fresh fish or other meat, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruit—all caught, bought, or made on the same day or from the day before. Water was the choice of drink; sodas were available but only in glass bottles that were used and returned to recycle. There was minimal waste. Even entertainment was simple and included singing, dancing, walking, or playing cards. Work didn’t consume their lives; they worked to live—not lived to work. Family was the center of their lives. The people I met did not have much “stuff,” but they had full, happy lives.
My world was turned upside-down. I yearned for the simplicity and minimalistic aspects of their island life. I knew that upon arriving back to the States, I couldn’t exactly emulate what they had, but I want to simplify and minimize every aspect of my life. I began to differentiate between my “wants” versus my “needs” and what was baggage and what was truly important to me.
Still in the midst of unemployment, the journey to minimalism was cathartic. I divided my time among applying for jobs, working on my doctorate, and working towards a minimalist lifestyle. Here are the little steps I took, in random order:
- Decided that I wanted people to be the center of my life–not work, titles, or money
- Project 333: Pared down my entire wardrobe to 33 items every 3 months and donated clothes I did not fit anymore or wore only once
- De-cluttered and organized my e-mail box and consolidated all of my e-mails into one account
- Organized, purged, shredded, and recycled all my paperwork
- Cut down all of the possessions in my apartment to 53 items/groups of items (besides my 33 wardrobe items)
- Transitioned into all digital/paperless billing and documentation
- Limited unnecessary paper and plastic use
- Cut out TV/cable
- Limited wasting food and began buying and consuming food I won’t waste
- Began using less electricity
- Stopped myself from buying new clothes
- Consolidated and simplified any way I can
During this journey to minimalism and after applying to 144 job positions, I finally landed a job. I move in two weeks to begin the new position. With me, I will bring a new perspective in life, a whole lot less “stuff,” and more insight on what is important to me.
I’m looking forward to a new beginning, but I know the journey has just begun.
Thank you for letting me share.