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!