I started becoming a minimalist without knowing it. For my entire freshman year I would guess I spent about $500 a month, and I didn’t even have any expenses! My parents paid my cell phone, I didn’t drive, and school and books were covered by scholarships. Still, I bought junk food, kitchen toys, DVDs, CDs, movie tickets to just-out films, restaurant meals I didn’t finish, clothes that didn’t fit that I didn’t need, and little knick-knacks that held my attention for as many minutes as the dollars I spent on them.
My second year–savings dwindling–I knew I needed to do something to solve the draining savings account problem. I did odd jobs on Craigslist for money. Raking leaves, cleaning houses, babysitting. The savings-drainage slowed, but continued steadily.
So I started questioning my spending habits. Why did I spend $5 on a new DVD every time I went to Wal-Mart? Why did I pay to download top-40 songs when the radio was on all the time and free? Why did I eat out and cook junk food when I had an on-campus meal plan?
When I couldn’t figure out why I was spending on this junk, I realized I also didn’t know why I was keeping the junk I’d invested in. Decorative items without places to hang them, DVDs I didn’t have time to watch, and clothes I never wore found their way to Goodwill or to new owners via Craigslist. I rooted out all my things.
Even though I was working and was doing well financially, all my junk weighed me down each time I moved (which has been every three months for the last two years). Last summer I did it again, purging my belongings. I started reading minimalist blogs like Zen Habits and Miss Minimalist, and they showed me the power of less.
I was radically inspired by Dave Bruno and his 100-thing challenge. Dave reduced all his stuff to just 100 items. I am still blown away by that radical simplicity. I don’t know yet if I aspire to such rigid not-a-lot-ness, but I would like to work there.
In less than a month, I’m downgrading from my beast of a Ford Expedition to the much smaller, happier, less-environmentally-deadly, fuel-friendlier Toyota Prius. I was once at a point where everything I owned fit in the Expedition. A few tubs of clothes, blankets, books, shoes, and kitchen stuff were all I had.
I wonder if I can reduce my possessions to the back of the Prius. A versatile wardrobe, like Miss Minimalist’s 10-item clothing collection. A single bag (I’ve been a bag lady my whole life, I have dozens) that can be used everywhere — preferably a recycled and unique one, like this. Food in jars, to reduce advertising in my living space. Can I do it? We’ll see.