Simplify by Sarah

How I Became a Minimalist

Simple LivingSarah Anne HayesComment

I grew up as a military brat, the daughter of a naval submariner. Until the age of 12, we moved every 2-3 years, which meant we took stock of our lives and our possessions and rid ourselves of the excess as we prepared for our newest destination.

If I'm honest, I hated it. I hated moving. I hated packing up our life and having to let go of people and places and things.

AN ADVOCATE FOR MORE

Perhaps because of growing up in that environment, I rebelled against the idea that I had to let go of things. Instead, I was an advocate for more — more things, more activities, more time, more people, more books, more adventures. More of anything and everything you could throw at me. As a people-pleaser, I didn't know how to say no, but I didn't really want to either. 

Simultaneously blessed and cursed with an interest in and aptitude for a variety of different things, I was always trying new activities and filling my calendar as full as my parents would allow. When I was finally old enough to control my calendar for myself, it meant one thing — I didn't really know how to control it. I simply filled it up, never stopping to think about how detrimental saying "yes" to so many things could be.

I spent most of my college and early post-grad life insanely busy. I prided myself on my ability to function on only four hours of sleep. There was no greater compliment than being told how amazing it was that I got so much done, that I could "do it all." 

This desire for more eventually produced a restlessness that came to a head at the start of 2014. I was frustrated with so many areas of my life — my job, my living situation, my relationships — but I didn't know what to do or how to change them. I spent January 1 on the couch, still recovering from a cold that had killed my New Year's Eve plans, surrounded by books, my Bible, my journal, and an endless supply of hot tea.

I prayed the smallest and biggest prayer of my life that day: "Lord, teach me to trust You."

Within a month, I'd accepted a new job in a small town in northeast Georgia, and by May I had packed up my entire life and moved from the Washington D.C. metro area down south. I settled into my job, my apartment, and my routine, not yet noticing how different life was in Georgia.

THE TIPPING POINT

Four months after arriving, I found myself packing up my belongings again and moving across town to a new place with new roommates. Right around that time, I began reading the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. That was the tipping point.

The book punched me in the gut. Surrounded by boxes of stuff, overwhelmed by the excess in my life, I started making steps toward change. I began reading and researching and on March 29, 2015, I took the first tangible step — purging my closet. In one afternoon, I more than halved my wardrobe. And in that one afternoon, I felt so much lighter.

In the months that followed, I continued to declutter my home and purge it of excess. I went through my office, my bookshelves, my bedroom, my living room, and my closet twice more.

The more I decluttered my home, the more I felt an increasing lightness in my physical space that transformed into a desire for lightness in the rest of my life. I began decluttering my digital spaces — deleting files I no longer needed, unfollowing hundreds of people on Instagram and Twitter, unsubscribing from numerous emails and blogs.

Again, the more I decluttered, the more the desire for simplicity in every aspect of my life grew. I simplified my schedule by saying no to things that didn't make me come alive. I researched fast fashion, ethical fashion, and simplified beauty and skincare products. I donated and sold over 1000 items.

I kept saying I was on a "minimalist kick," but after more than two years, it's no longer a kick. It's a lifestyle change I intend to keep forever.

FROM MINIMALISM TO SIMPLE LIVING

To say a lot's changed since I began my minimalist journey would be an understatement. At the time I was living in northeast Georgia working for a missions non-profit. Over two years later, I'm back in the D.C. metro area for just a few more weeks, prepping to head down to northwest Florida for a few months and, after that, who knows?

Since that day in March of 2015, I've purged my closet at least three more times, but to be honest, I do mini-purges every so often and I'm on a weight loss journey that will likely require me to replace upwards of 90% of my wardrobe when all is said and done. I've gone through every room of my house, including the kitchen, which I finally tackled during my most recent move. I've even done two major bookshelf purges, selling or donating over 30 books each time (which is a big deal for this bibliophile).

As I've prepared to make my transition down to Florida, I made my biggest downsize yet — getting rid of about 70% of my furniture and keeping only a dresser, two nightstands, two shelves, and a desk chair.

Though this is the story of how I became a minimalist, I don't even call myself that most of the time anymore. Not because I don't have a minimal number of items or I've changed my mind about the lifestyle or anything like that, but rather it's because what began as me researching minimalism has transformed into me simply desiring and pursuing simplicity in every area of my life. So after a couple of years of calling myself a minimalist, I now use the term simple living advocate, because I feel it better captures what I'm after.

Simple is not my default setting. I'm really good at making things super complicated and the queen of overanalyzing just about everything. But after over two years of simplifying my life, I now know simple makes my soul feel more at ease. It helps me breathe easier — literally and figuratively. When the aim is to keep things as simple as possible, it forces me to identify what really is the most important thing.

So that's how this journey began and where I am today. I'm excited you're here and I hope you'll continue to join me. Here's to simplicity and building a life filled with the things that matter most!


I'd love to hear from you! Where did your minimalism or simple living journey began? Is it still something new or a journey you've been on for a few years, like myself?