I’ve been really interested in leading a more minimalist life ever since reading some blog posts on www.theminimalists.com, and have become a huge fan of Joshua and Ryan and the lifestyle they advocate. I never considered myself a minimalist in the past; in fact, I had quite a collection of random items that, up until my move to England in 2013, I felt I “needed”.
When I moved to England, I left with 1 suitcase, and lived in a shared home that was furnished for about a year. Upon meeting my husband and moving into our own, much smaller flat, we needed to think more carefully about space, and the purchases we needed to make, since our new flat wasn’t furnished. By Christmas of 2014, we had settled in nicely, but came to the sudden realization that many things we bought, we didn’t actually need. We began paring down, and by springtime, we managed to rid ourselves of a few things, and it felt much lighter.
Fast forward to July 2015 – I was feeling cramped and stuck. Looking around, nothing in our flat was a source of joy or inspiration. I felt trapped, and constantly overwhelmed with the task of keeping our living space clean and organised, and the ideas of finding new places for any new purchases we made was paralyzing. I didn’t feel motivated to write, to design, or even just to create. Being a naturally creative person, this felt like a constant weight on my shoulders. We tried going for daily walks around our area, which of course provided us with some refreshment and invigoration. We even took the train into Central London on the weekends to watch a show, have lunch, or wander around like tourists, which also helped us feel inspired. Unfortunately, the “refreshment”, “invigoration”, and “inspired” feelings were only temporary. I thought that maybe spending even more time out and about would help. But no matter where we went, or how long we were gone for, coming back to that flat made us feel dreary and full of dread again. Our inspiration had wilted, and we realized we needed to make a more drastic change. After a couple weeks of discussion, we decided: we were going to move back to my home of Canada.
In the months leading up to our move, we made a few different lists of tasks that needed to be completed by the time we set off. One of those tasks was, obviously, to begin paring down our belongings and pack them away. The whole idea of packing away items that were “barely used” or “non-essential” seemed a bit strange to me. I began thinking “should we even have items that we barely use, or that are non-essential?” From that point, I began doing some serious overhaul on our household items. Things I had held onto for vague or non-compelling reasons were immediately discarded, or donated to the homeless shelter in the nearby town. As I continued to pare down, some items became difficult to get rid of due to their sentimental value, and items like family heirlooms or jewelry from deceased relatives were kept. I made some difficult choices and ended up parting with some (not all) of them.
In the final month (April) of 2017, my husband and I were both off work and beginning to tackle the larger tasks on our lists, which included disassembling our furniture and packing away our kitchen items. Luckily, my husband’s sister was moving out into her first place, so many of our household items, such as dishes, cutlery, appliances, our TV, and other items were taken to her in Northern England. It was during the process of packing and stacking these various items that it really sunk in just how much stuff my husband and I had accumulated. Usually anyone walking into our flat would exclaim how tidy it was, and how little we had. We were not the types to have kick-knacks, trinkets, extra wires, or miscellaneous items hanging around, and everything had their place. To an outsider, we were minimalist. And for a while, we thought ourselves to be minimalist too. It was during the process of packing things up for my husband’s sister when it really sunk in hard. How on earth were we going to get all of this remaining stuff back to Canada?
With our extra baggage allowance, we were tasked with packing all of our remaining items into 4 suitcases, 2 carry-ons, and 2 bike boxes. The bikes weren’t much of a hassle, but fitting our entire lives in those suitcases and carry-ons was definitely going to be difficult. Living in hotels for our final 5 days in England was a bit of a fun adventure, to be honest. We enjoyed being away from the responsibilities of renting a flat, and loved the idea of handing over our keys and never looking back. The day before we set off for the airport, my husband sold his car at a nearby trade-in. He loved that! Being car-free was exhilarating for him, and he certainly relished in those final 24 hours of freedom. The final day in our hotel was a bit stressful, because we needed to come face-to-face with our luggage, and the daunting task of sorting it all into 23 and 10kg chunks. We borrowed a luggage scale from the front desk at the hotel, and spent the next 3 hours unpacking and re-packing our belongings so that we weren’t hit with surprise charges for being overweight. Eventually, we sorted them so that each bag hit the maximum kg allowance, but boy was it ever difficult!
The next day was long, but, as always when we travel between Canada and England, it went by quickly. Before we knew it, we were unloading and carrying our luggage to the basement in my parent’s house (which is actually much more comfortable and pleasant than you’d imagine!) Stepping into our temporary home, I immediately became overwhelmed. Being a respectful mother, my mom had kept hold of everything that had been in my old room, not wanting to throw it away during their move incase it was important to me. Unfortunately, I became inundated with the daunting task of now having to sort through all of my old stuff to make room for our things from England. I’ve stumbled across clothes that are nearly 15 years old, items from high school that serve literally zero purpose to my life, as well as things that I could use in the future, but that I haven’t touched in nearly 4 years (so how useful are they? When will I hypothetically use these?)
As I sit here, three weeks on from our big move, I’m realizing that you really don’t need much at all to live a happy and fulfilling life. In fact, having less stuff frees you to inject experiences and enjoyment into your life. I am constantly dreading the day(s) I’ll need to spend sorting through (read: throwing out) piles of old clothes, toys, school supplies, and general JUNK scattered around my room. Having too much stuff really does drag you down and suck the literal LIFE out of you!
Living in England, I thought my husband and I were quite minimalist, and I suppose for the majority of people, we were! But after a huge life-changing move across the world, we realized how much we actually had, and how pointless it was to hold onto it all. From this experience we learned that moving forward, we have to be careful when it comes to consumerism – it really creeps up on you if you’re not careful. You can accumulate so much more than you need without really realizing it. I also learnt that moving countries won’t solve all of your problems. Yes, moving to Canada has brought back a source of inspiration and excitement. My yearning for cleaner air, fresh water nearby to swim in, lots of sunshine and green space, and being around friends and family has certainly been satiated. But contending with an abundance of stuff is still weighing heavy on me, and it’s made me realize that it wasn’t necessarily life in our English flat that sucked the life out of me; it was the stuff! It’s eye-opening when people said to my husband and I “Wow, you’ve fit your whole life into 4 suitcases! That’s crazy!” when, to us, 4 suitcases seemed like a ridiculous amount. One day, I hope we’ll be able to cut that number in half, or even be able to fit our belongings into 1, but for now, we’ll take our minimalism journey one step at a time.