I wasn’t always a minimalist. In fact, I was a full blown hoarder. Born and raised.
I need to thank my mom for this. I love the lady but she cannot throw shit away. She taught me to keep everything that comes into the home and use things until they can’t be used anymore. To this day, if I decide to toss anything, I have to hide it from her because she will in fact salvage the item.
My mom once saved a luffa I threw out because it was still in good condition. I didn’t need it. She never used it, but she kept it because it is painful for her to toss something that isn’t broken.
You may be wondering how I escaped this woman’s mindset. I am going to share my story and what I learned along the way… A few things saved me from this life:
- Moving 4 times in 5 years
- Needing to be frugal
- Having a desire to learn how to be neat
Learning how to throw stuff away
When I was a sophomore in college, I decided I needed my own space. I was going to Central Connecticut State University and essentially attending for free after merit and need based grants and scholarships. I had the opportunity to take out federal student loans to live on my own and I took it.
Do I regret it? Fuck No. Am I still paying off those loans? Fuck yeah!
So I moved 20 minutes away from home. I had more space than I had stuff to do with, so being raised a hoarder, it was my yearlong mission to fill every inch of my space. If you think I didn’t succeed, you’re probably on drugs because I totally did!
This is where my hoarding tendencies thrived! I was able to consume and consume and I didn’t twice.
So how did I pull through this trying time? Well, 50% of what I kept ended up in the trash when I moved out of my first apartment. The same goes for my second. I’m ashamed even thinking about how I didn’t value my stuff back then. I can only forgive myself because I was 19 and didn’t know any better.
Moving made me face those unwanted items and realize that I don’t use them. Thankfully, by the time I needed to move out of my 3rd apartment, I learned my lesson and I only had to move items I loved and used. Not to mention, my 3rd apartment was a tiny little thing in NYC and I didn’t have enough space to feed my habit.
Learning how to stop buying things
This one is simple. I had NO MONEY. By this, I mean I lived in the most expensive city in America and earned minimum wage for the first 3 months. Let’s just say, my rent alone was more than I made in a 2 week period.
When I graduated college, I had a strong desire to move to NYC and start my career. I was 22, broke, inexperienced and in debt. It took me 4 months to find a job in the city, and the one that took a chance on me was a start up that offered me $1200 dollars a month.
People may have thought I was crazy at the time but I took it with the hopes of opportunity for growth and experience. It was the best decision of my life.
Thankfully the company paid for my metro pass so I was saving $117.50 a month and offered me 2 raises during my time with them. So if I subtracted my fixed expenses including rent, utilities and phone bills, I was left with less than 400 dollars a month to spend. This meant I bought nothing. I didn’t have the money or space for more items.
This was the hardest challenge of my life. I learned all the frugal life hacks. I brought my lunch every day. I took full advantage of every free happy hour that was offered to me. Mostly, I had to resist the temptation for impulse buys. i.e shit I don’t need.
Eliminating trash from my life
One thing you need to know about me is that I have been undisciplined in cleaning my room since birth. I can clean it but it never stays that way.
If I try to envision my childhood room, the thing that stands out to me most is the mound of dirty clothing that never got smaller. No matter how many loads of laundry I did, the mountain of despair never went away.
When I was in NYC, I made it my mission to live a less messy life. I moved in with a neat person that expected some effort from me. My biggest mistake was using storage as my solution. Once I realized that I needed to reduce the amount of items I have, things got easier, but not better.
The turning point was when I questioned why my trash bin was always full. I looked around my room and realized that my clutter was clothes and packaging (shopping bags, cardboard boxes, plastic film, etc). I tried everything to discipline myself into putting my things away immediately, but that failed.
I discovered zero waste shortly after, and while my room still has it’s moments when I let things go, I am not fishing through trash to find items I really need anymore. I can finally say that I am better at keeping my room clean.
It may not be an accomplishment for you, but it is a big one for me. Thank you mom for blessing my with this challenge!
This blog post is the story of my journey to minimalism and zero waste. I’m still learning along the way but this is how I got here.