Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.
In 2011, I left the States and everything I knew to join my husband in London. Leaving my family, my job, and my life was a fresh start. I was determined to make it count.
When I set foot on Heathrow Airport, I didn’t have a social circle to distract me, a family to interrupt me, obligations to seek refuge in, or clutter to busy myself with. It was just me, my issues, and my choices.
So I set some ground rules. I chose not to socialize just because I was lonely, and not to shop because I needed something to do. Initially, I allowed myself to seek comfort in old relationships, but as I grew stronger, I let unhealthy connections fade away.
I’m not going to lie. The first few months were hard. Sometimes, I arrived home from work in a fit of tears. I didn’t want to blame Evan for my “predicament,” so I worked through my feelings alone, through journaling, or via creative projects.
Despite struggling, choosing purposefully allowed me to focus on the areas of my life that needed attention.
Having lived paycheck to paycheck, the hubby and I were ready to tackle our finances. We were forced to have one bank account, which proved immensely helpful for communication and accountability. The biggest elephant in the room was my 40k graduate loan. We made a goal to have this debt off our balance sheet by the end of 2013, and worked backwards to find achievable monthly payments.
Aligning our spending with our priorities allowed me to find joy in cooking my breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so that I could splurge on a Starbucks a day. I stayed away from shopping because I couldn’t think about more stuff when I was so focused on reducing my student debt. For months, my daily thoughts were of making payments and seeing my balance fall by $2,000 a month. I gave up yoga, monthly manicures, and I delayed the purchase of a computer because I didn’t want to affect our cash flow. I also ignored my mom when she urged me to shop for clothes.
Instead of feeling limited by a budget, slowly, I found liberation. My monthly payments weren’t a drain on my financial freedom, but a countdown to independence. My bare nails weren’t ugly, but a short-term sacrifice for the life I wanted. Instead of paying for the benefits of Yoga, I paid myself for financial tranquility. My work laptop doubled as a personal one, and my mom made due with giving me the clothes she thought I needed.
By living our life free of excesses, we found more freedom to live. The hubby and I flew to Portugal to indulge in Porte wine and cheese. A few weeks later, we went skiing in Innsbruck and Oohed and Aahed at the Alps, while becoming big fans of Après-le-Skis. Easter week took us to Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Estonia, and Russia, where we explored the Old Towns and meaty comfort foods. A month later, we explored Kiev with my mother, where we stumbled across beautiful markets and street performers.
Even though I didn’t have a cellphone for the first four months I was here, and we still don’t have a television, I’m not a minimalist. But in lessening my load, my marriage, my friendships, and my writing flourished.
In January of this year, I got my first manicure in London. I still waited until I got paid to splurge on this luxury. It felt like an early 30th birthday present. But the best present of all was paying off my graduate loans at the end of February.
Today, I take pride in wearing the bejesus out of my clothes. I still hate shopping, and malls and stores stress me out. My white gym socks are no longer white and are slowing coming apart.
One of the most exciting changes of all is that we’re expecting our first baby. I’m determined to make this transition as simple, inexpensive, and minimalist as possible. Preparing for the life I envision with our child will be time-consuming, but in the end, worth it for me and for my family.