Simplicity in Action: Debbie

Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.


Eleven years ago, my husband and I moved to San Diego from the Lake Tahoe area. To keep expenses down, we opted to do the move ourselves and rented the largest truck available, as well as a trailer to tow our car (our second car was already in San Diego). Unfortunately, we soon learned the truck would not accommodate all of our stuff, so we had to swap the car trailer for an enclosed trailer to house the rest of our possessions. That meant I had to drive our car the over 500 miles to our destination.

Since I tend to become very drowsy during long drives, we paid to fly a close friend from San Diego to accompany me on the trip. While this change in plans incurred a non-trivial additional expense, we didn’t even consider the option of pruning our possessions so they would fit in our moving truck. That thought did not even cross our minds.

That was just the beginning… Once we arrived at our new San Diego apartment, we discovered that everything we owned would not fit in the space we had available. So what did we do? We rented a storage unit, of course, to the tune of $125 per month.

Fast forward eight years. Faced with a local move, we finally decided to get rid of our storage unit, which had become so “stuffed to the gills” that we didn’t even know what we had anymore. By that time, we had spent over $12,000 to store our superfluous possessions! We had never stopped to do the math, but the total was quite sobering.

Cleaning out the storage unit took a number of weeks and was definitely not fun. We found a number of items which we had replaced over the years, simply because we’d forgotten we had them. We made numerous trips to the local Goodwill and other charities, sold some items on Craigslist, and held two garage sales that were largely a waste of time (the few people who came out were only interested in bargain basement deals – we’re talking a dollar here…). When it was all said and done, we’d gotten rid of probably 90% of what was in our storage unit and haven’t missed any of it since! Plus, the $1500 per year that we’ve saved on storage expenses has been put to much better use.

After the storage albatross had been removed from our necks, we turned our attention to the contents of our apartment. Over the past two-plus years, we’ve really minimized what we own, from books and kitchen appliances to childhood collections and mementoes. With each trip to donate our cast-offs, we freed up energy for our lives and the powerful future we wish to create for ourselves.

Our surroundings are becoming more and more clutter-free and it has helped our minds to be calmer and more peaceful as well. This is especially important since both of us work from home the majority of the time and share an office in our two-bedroom apartment. We love living in a smaller abode, owning fewer possessions, and valuing our freedom and quality of life over things. We live near the water and enjoy our frequent walks along the bay or to view the ocean from the nearby hills.

While we have made tremendous progress in simplifying our lives, a few hurdles remain, mostly on my part. I still have a number of physical and online files to pare down and I have made that process a key goal for 2013. But that is not the largest of my challenges as an aspiring minimalist.

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with compulsive shopping. While I have been diligent in auditing my closet and regularly donating the pieces which no longer suit my body and lifestyle, my excessive shopping has served to replace the cast-offs – and then some. So I am left with an over-stuffed and overwhelming closet filled with clothes that are nearly new and in excellent condition.

Since I no longer wish to live with such closet clutter (not to mention out of control spending), I’ve decided to stop the bleeding this year – and beyond. I’ve set ambitious goals and strict rules around my shopping and I’m blogging about my process of trading a full closet for a full life. Although I know change doesn’t happen overnight, I am committed to being a recovering shopaholic and to creating a minimalist wardrobe filled only with items I love and wear regularly.

The final pieces of the puzzle are truly fitting into place this year and I am so proud of the journey which my husband and I have taken in simplifying our lives. We are infinitely happier as a result and are fine with driving older cars and living in a small apartment. We have zero debt, increased freedom and choices, and more time and energy for each other, our loved ones, and interests and hobbies. Life is good!


Read more about Debbie’s journey to curb her compulsive shopping and trade her full closet for a full life on her blog, Recovering Shopaholic, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. says

    This is a truly delightful story Debbie. It is amazing how much money, time and energy we throw away mindlessly in our lives. In regard to money, I sometimes wonder if I could retire now (at age 35) if I hadn’t thrown away all of the money I earned and used it thoughtfully.

    Congrats on making progress on your shopping habits too. I have had some serious shopping addictions (non-clothes related) and know how hard it was to break.

    I hope you continue to make wonderful progress


    • says

      Thanks so much for your comment, Mark! I know what you mean about being able to retire early. I’m more than 10 years older than you and sometimes wish I could have a “do-over” with money! But all we can do is do better when we know better, and that’s what I’m trying to do now. Thanks for your congrats. Seems like you deserve some, too. A lot of men struggle with shopping addiction, too, but what they buy is often different (gadgets and collections vs. clothing, shoes, etc.). The roots of the problem are often the same, though. It’s touch to overcome such issues, but it CAN be done!

      • says

        I like your expression “all we can do is do better when we know better, and that’s what I’m trying to do now”. That is some great advice :-)

        Collections was my issue… collections of gadgets in an unusual niche.

        And I agree they come from a similar root. That is why Jess and I can help one another. And I agree it CAN be done. Slow and steady!

  2. Ann Marie says

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story! I know first hand how hard it is to say “no” when there is so much temptation all around us. We are continually inundated with the “latest and greatest”, whether it’s clothes, gadgets, hobbies, or whatever.
    Keep up the good work and you will accomplish all you have set out to do! :)

    • says

      Thanks for your kind words, Ann Marie! You’re so right about the temptation being all around us. It can be difficult to swim against the current of consumerism, but it’s definitely rewarding when we’re able to do so. I know I feel better now that I’m buying less and enjoying more!

  3. says

    Hey Debbie, I just found your blog. It’s great! I feel like our lives are parallel, in that
    we came from Ct. – a 4000 sq. ft. house – to a 6 month rental of a 2300 sq. ft. house.Ha!
    Our times is up this month, and due to no housing inventory and the exorbitant prices, we are returning to Ct. as a staging area for the next part of our lives.
    I am having great fun giving everything of no current use to me or my husband to Good Will or Salvation, or if any value to a consigment shop called Home Consigments.
    This is great – both the decluttering, downsizing, and Your blog!

    • says

      Thanks so much for your comment, Kathy. Yes, we do have some parallels! Congrats on your success in downsizing – and for your enjoyment of the process! Decluttering can be addictive, can’t it? I continue to look for new ways to simplify my surroundings and my life and I’m happier as a result. I wish you the best of luck with your move back to CT!

  4. says

    Moving is always a great way to realize how much you own and it is the best time of all to start changing your ways! Our small little family is starting to find contentment in eco-minimalism and while the journey may be long, the rewards are certainly fulfilling.

    Keep going with the decluttering, it is a wonderful art.

    • says

      Thanks for your comment, Cheryl. Yes, moving definitely helps in terms of de-cluttering! My father and stepmother just moved after living in the same place for 17 years. They had quite the time de-cluttering and packing. It’s better to do it as we go along… Congrats on the contentment you’ve found through eco-minimalism! I wish you continued success and happiness.

  5. Kim M. says

    Hi Debbie! Just saw your post here and had to comment. Your statement of having spent over $12,000 for a storage unit really hit home for me! When I moved in 2 years ago with my now husband, we didn’t have enough room for all our stuff so we got a climate controlled unit for $75/month. About 6 months ago I gave away several rooms of furniture to needy coworkers and that only left a small amount in storage. After reading this today I am inspired to just get rid of the rest. If I’ve not needed it in 2 years then it needs to go and we need to quit paying for the storage unit. Now I just have to get my husband on board with this. We truly do not have room in our current living situation and a couple of (large) items are special to him. Thanks for your inspiring message. BTW, I check in with your blog every day as everything you write resonates with me. Take care of yourself!

    • says

      Thanks so much for your comment, Kim! It’s good to see you here as well as over at my blog. I’m glad to hear that my story helped to inspire you to let go of the storage unit. Perhaps you’ll be able to avoid the type of wasted money my husband and I experienced. Maybe your husband will be ready to either part with the items you mentioned or find another solution. Good luck! Thanks for letting me know you like my blog!