How Minimalism Became my Most Expensive Lifestyle Choice to Date

The general public seems to define a minimalist as someone who owns very little. But most minimalists define minimalism the way The Minimalists do: a tool that can help you focus on living a worthwhile life by eliminating superfluous items in favor of what’s necessary, beautiful, and meaningful. Some may also abide by Marie Kondo‘s definition of minimalism: keeping only that which sparks joy in your heart.

I first moved to Boston when I was 19. I had two suitcases and $1,200. And I was happy. Fast forward 12 years and I owned a lot of stuff and had created a family of my own. I was happy with y family, but I wasn’t happy with the rest of my life. I had changed jobs, but that hadn’t helped. I had changed my diet, but nothing else changed. I tried buying more stuff, but that just seemed to make it worse. Perhaps I needed to do the opposite of what I had been trying. Perhaps I needed to simplify and surround myself only with that I loved.

The problem came when I actually started going through my stuff and it turned out that almost none of it brought me joy. And so, over the next year or so, I got rid of almost all of it.

So far, so good, right? But it turns out that if you want to stay working full time, you do need some stuff. And so I decided that if I was going to replace some of my stuff, I was going to replace it with stuff that brought me joy.

It turns out that I have very simple taste. I like the best – it’s that simple. If I was going to spend money replacing something, I wanted to love whatever it was that I bought. And so I went from buying cheap clothes from Old Navy to buying serious business lady clothes from companies like MM.LaFleur . Sure, a dress from MM costs $150 – $200, but I feel like a million bucks in it, so that makes it worth it, right? It’s also worth noting that I replaced over 200 items of shoes and clothing with less than 50 items.

Then we bought a condo and needed to renovate it and furnish it. We didn’t go all-out on either count, but the dollar signs sure did add up fast.

I now own a lot less than I used to. And I purchase a much smaller number of items per year than I used to. So where’s the problem, you ask? The problem is that I forgot a key component of minimalism somewhere along the way. Before you purchase something, you should always ask yourself if that item is worth your freedom. Because every item we own weighs us down a little bit more and costs us a little bit more, not only in terms of cash money but also in terms of opportunity cost.

Even though I own fewer items and spend far less time shopping, I’m not much happier. In fact, I work even harder now to maintain my lifestyle than I did before I pursued minimalism.

Somewhere along my journey, I got lost. I forgot that the goal is to lead a more meaningful life, not just to own less stuff or to own stuff that I love. I neglected to embrace the heart and soul of the practice. The good news is that minimalism is a practice, and the more I practice the better I will get.


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This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Dormant

24 Replies to “How Minimalism Became my Most Expensive Lifestyle Choice to Date”

  1. I struggle with this daily. The idea that I do want to replace the stuff I don’t like with things I love but also being mindful of the price tag. I try to pay for everything in cash and try not to waste money but it is a Journey right? I own my home (well the bank owns it because this is subburban Boston) and truthfully I know it’s the American dream but it wears me down some days. When the fence starts falling down from a wind storm and you call for pricing and it comes in at $4000 I just feel like I can’t get ahead sometimes. The expenses don’t stop and it brings me anxiety. Thinking about going back to renting as soon as my kids leave for college (4 more years). Would love your perspective on that?

    1. Hi Tara! As you know, I am both an owner/landlord and a renter. I have never understood why owning your own home has been the American dream. The only reason I ended up owning is that it was so much cheaper than renting. That being said, I own a condo, not a house, and the condo association is responsible for all of the exterior maintenance. I am so grateful for this because I barely had time or money to maintain the inside of my home, much less the outside of it. Sure, when you rent you can’t make some of the changes you want to the property, but it is so much more relaxing to not have to worry about maintenance (so long as you have a good landlord). And even though it costs more per month to rent, it might be a wash in the end because you don’t have to set aside a portion of your paycheck each month for home maintenance. I also prefer to spend me weekends out having fun, instead of at home trying to do repairs. I even got a property management company for the condo that I am renting out so that I don’t have to deal with it. For me, renting is the way to go at this point in my life, but I guess I can see both sides of the coin.

  2. I love this post. Thanks for sharing. I’m in the process of going partially minimalist myself. I read Mari Kondo’s book this summer and have been getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t bring me joy. The problem for me, is the kids’ stuff. “Everything” brings them joy. ha. I’ve been slowly getting them to see the difference it makes to have less stuff and now they are on board too. They are actually enjoying getting rid of stuff too because it’s easier for them to clean up.

  3. I agree with this. Some people mistake minimalism as a way to be cheap and frugal, but that is not what minimalism is. I feel I have been spending just as much money as I was before but on more quality items and things that either make me happy, or more organized/make my life easier, which in turn makes me happy (example: shelving to display my many plants that I love instead of having them all over the rooms randomly looking like clutter). I only want the best and nices things (in my opinion, not what society states as being the best), however, trying not to break my wallet in the process. I always wanted that “American Dream,” but only recently realized that that American dream is not my dream. just the dream your supposed to want. only thing I ever want to own in that type of way is a car, only because I need one to get to my horse, who by the way costs me an arm, leg and lung, but talk about sparking joy and having something meaningful, beautiful. He saves my life everyday. He is why I try to buy less so he can have the best.

  4. I completely agree. Been trying to go minimalist for about a year now, but every so often, I forget why I’m doing it and focus on the stuff I’ve lost as opposed to what I gained from it. I’m ready to give it another go without setting unrealistic expectations for myself and see how it goes. Good luck!

    1. Right?! It’s challenging at times. Perhaps we should make a written list of all that we’ve gained by getting rid of things and look at it each time we’re tempted to purchase new items. Good luck to you, too!

  5. I think it’s very important that you put this post out there. Because a lot of the time, we see minimalists who already have everything figured out and they’re happy with what they have and what they’re doing. We forget that it takes time and effort to get there and that it’s not so easy. –Julia

  6. Really enjoyed this post. Gave me another perspective of ‘personal belongings’. Thanx!
    I never strove to be a Minimalist….. but,
    ten-ish years ago, I had the ‘urge to purge’ my belongings.
    Not to be a Minimalist, for I did not know the term. I simply wanted to reduce my worldly possessions down to what would fit into the trunk of a car.
    Took me ten+ years and I ended up owning what I could carry, by hand, for a mile. 😀 Literally!

    1. Hi Ren — Thanks for sharing your awesome story! I think everyone moves at their own pace. Mine is also pretty slow, but slow and steady wins the race, right? I’m glad you finally made it to a place where you are happy and am super impressed that you can literally carry everything you own by hand!

  7. I am afraid this is exactly where I am heading to. It was a sudden unexpected realization. I will definitely keep this in mind. Thank you for sharing a valuable lesson.

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