Simplicity Story: Brianne’s Minimalist Journey

Note:  This is a guest post from Breanne, who blogs at Metalsmithing Poodle.  You will love her story of how she embraced the simple lifestyle through pursuing her art and moving into a parkour gym.

My minimalist journey started about a month and half ago, but in reality I have been infatuated with the minimalist lifestyle for years but had other obligations (excuses haha) over the years and have never fully committed to the idea. My interest was first peaked about 7 years ago when I had moved out of the apartment I shared with my significant other at the time and did not feel ready to see him so I didn’t move any of my things into my new place. I lived happily and simply with a sleeping bag and my clothing for about a month. I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom in doing this.

Recently after graduating with my BFA in jewelry design and metalsmithing and all the unfulfilled expectations settling in I started searching for something more. Life was not what I had expected; I went to school for art….I chose happiness over money and ended up with neither. Sadly our society values art but not artists, even the people within the art community don’t seem to place much value on the artist. I had also never really considered there were actually jobs in America that did not pay enough to survive on.

I was rudely awakened from this misconception after the financial aid came to a halt. For nearly a year I fretted about what I was going to do and how I could possibly make it in this world. In tandem with this I was doing everything I could in order to “make it” as an artist. I feel somewhat like I was chewed up and spit out by the art world. I was on the right track, my work was in galleries and I was even a board member for the Colorado Metalsmithing Association, but everything felt forced and it was no longer bringing me happiness. It also was not bringing in enough money to even sustain the art-making much less anything else.

The only solution seemed to be minimizing my bills and living off of less since I have no reasonable way to make income above minimum wage. Also the only thing I wanted to do on my free time was parkour. I took the only two things that made sense my life and mixed a little romance in there and the outcome was starting a new life and leaving the old one by the wayside.

Parkour was something that changed my life almost instantly. I used to be gymnast and was so in love with this sport is was literally the only thing that mattered to me during the 4 years I participated in the sport, not to mention the many years I spend admiring it and trying to teach myself on the front lawn.

When I turned 18 I could no longer practice the sport and was devastated, heartbroken even. Ever since I have always felt like there was something missing, like a big chunk of myself was somehow severed from my existence. Once I discovered parkour at the age of 25; it was love at first sight. With parkour I finally felt like a whole person again, I once again had an outlet for the physical expression of my existence.

After high school I did a lot of partying and strayed down a bad path. I constantly at odds with myself because I wanted to be healthy but was unhappy and the only thing I really looked forward to was drinking with friends at the end of the night. Currently I can think of nothing I would rather do with my day then parkour, it is what I day dream about, it is my passion and my love. It is literally the funnest thing I have ever done and I just can’t get enough of it. Since this is the one thing in my life I feel the strongest about I decided totally immersing myself in this world was a good way to figure out a profession within this field and it is happening much quicker than I had expected! I am currently apprenticing to be a parkour coach and co-taught my first class last week!

About 2 months ago I found another kindred spirit who was also dedicated to living an alternative minimalist life dedicated to what we love the most; parkour. We hardly knew each other but decided our connection was strong enough that we needed to figure out where it would lead. We had met in Colorado and only hung on two occasions but had meaningful conversation, similar life views and goals not to mention our shared passion over parkour.

These conversations continued over instant messenger after he left to Arizona and one month later we left both our lives behind to live one truly dedicated to minimalism. Neither one of us could fathom the idea of working a typical 9-5 job for the sole purpose of maintaining an apartment or a house and all of the shiny objects within it.

We have left our old lives behind in order to purse one that is truly free, not just working until hopefully one day we would have enough time to do the things we want once our bodies are wasted and worn. We started a new life with the pursuit of minimalism, the simple dedication to our interests and desires, a life filled with passion, adventure, love in the pursuit of true freedom. We are currently residing in a parkour gym and plan to eventually buy a van and live in that while traveling across the country practicing parkour in various cities.

Are you working toward a simpler lifestyle?  Then I would love to share your story!  Please submit your original (not published anywhere else) story about how you are simplifying your life.  You don’t have to be an extreme minimalist–I would love to share stories of people who are just starting out of their journey.  If your story is selected to be featured, you will receive 50% off the the Simple Living Basics E-Course, after any other discounts.  Send your story to brosselit@gmail.com . 

New to Simple Living?  Then check out our Simple Living Basics e-course.  There are plenty of discounts available, and it will be an investment in a lower-stress more focused lifestyle!

Breanne blogs at Metalsmithing Poodle, where she shares her art and her adventures living her alternative, minimalist lifestyle.

Surprising Changes from Extreme Minimalism

Don't worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

Don’t worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

Our family lives in less than 200 square feet of space.

We are trying to get rid of our car, but we own multiple bicycles.

We have a dorm fridge and no oven.

By every measure, life on Breaking Tradition could be considered to be “extreme minimalism.”  We no longer have truckloads to remove from our house.  We have no garage to empty, no attic to declutter.  All that we own is inside our sailboat.

For so long, I was absolutely obsessed with clearing out the clutter, with simplifying my life.  But in the end, our arrival in this lifestyle was so abrupt, that I barely had time to even envision what it would look like.  For that reason, it brought with it a lot of surprises.

Here are some unexpected surprises that extreme minimalism has brought:

  • There is no longer any doctrine to follow.  We no longer worry if having something is “minimalist” enough.  We don’t count possessions.  What we own is completely based on practicality.  We bought a television, because it made the most sense, for hooking up the Wii.  We no longer own a blender or electric corn popper, because there just isn’t room (and fancy cooking creates too much of a mess for our small kitchen!).
  • Everything is kept with the goal of not making a mess.  Small spaces get messy.  Simplicity defines our meals, because cleaning up in a small area with no hot water is a pain.  We own lots of storage containers and nothing that is messy to use.
  • Exploring and adventure take priority, when it comes to leisure time.  We live on a boat in a very bike-able area.  So for weekend outings, we go for bike rides, dinghy rides, and walks at one of the nearby nature centers.
  • Speaking of leisure time, we have a LOT more of it!  Housework takes 30 minutes a day, and we don’t spend as much time maintaining a yard, etc.  So we have a lot more time for adventuring, playing Mario Kart, or pursuing other hobbies.
  • Vacations have gotten cheaper.  When you live on a less-than-200-square-foot boat without many amenities, the cheapest camping cabin feels like a 5 star hotel!  For Thanksgiving week, we spend less than $1000 to spend the entire week in a small cabin.  But it had a real kitchen (with an oven!), two full-sized beds (we share a twin normally), and its own bathroom, complete with a tub!
  • That one vacation is all you need.  We loved getting away for Thanksgiving, but normally we don’t miss all of the fancy stuff.  Our simple routine is low-stress, and we love not having to spend so much time managing our home and our possessions.
  • This lifestyle works well for our daughter.  Beanie loves playing outside, and she respects the toys she does have much more than she did when she had many toys.  She looks forward to going to the park and visiting places in the community.

We’ve been living an extreme minimalist lifestyle for 20 months, and we have been living on the boat 8 months.  So far, I have to say it certainly has been full of wonderful surprises!

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Are you working toward a simpler lifestyle?  Then I would love to share your story!  Please submit your original (not published anywhere else) story about how you are simplifying your life.  You don’t have to be an extreme minimalist–I would love to share stories of people who are just starting out of their journey.  If your story is selected to be featured, you will receive 50% off the the Simple Living Basics E-Course, after any other discounts.  Send your story to brosselit@gmail.com . 

New to Simple Living?  Then check out our Simple Living Basics e-course.  There are plenty of discounts available, and it will be an investment in a lower-stress more focused lifestyle!

Why Bother?

Jess Painting

The following is a guest post by the most-creatively-inspired-he-has-ever-been-in-his-life half of Minimalist Couple, Mark Adam Douglass.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “This whole simplicity and minimalism idea sounds great, but what is in it for me? What is the point? Why should I bother?”

Or, have you been simplifying your life for a while and forgotten the reason you started? Has minimalism become a chore rather than a tool for a better life, one filled with more love, passion and creativity?

The benefits of a simpler, uncluttered life are different for everyone. I know that when times have been tough, when I have lost my way and lost my why, hearing about other people’s journeys and stories and struggles and successes helps me to connect with my why once again. So I am going to share why I love minimalism so much and how it has helped myself and Jess, my fiancé and the other half of Minimalist Couple.

It was just after I met Jess that I discovered the simplicity and minimalism movement, initially through Leo Babauta at Zen Habits and Joshua and Ryan at The Minimalists. The biggest lesson I learnt from them, and other inspirational writers, was that I needed to question everything in my life. I needed to question my stuff, how I spent my time, the people in my life, the work that I do, my relationship to money and every other facet of my life.

So I did.

I reduced a lot of stuff, but still have a long way to go. In order to live a minimalist, clutter free life in the mean time, we developed the ‘I Don’t Know Room’.

I changed the way I spent my time. I stopped watching TV. I reduced my general web surfing, being more particular about I did and read and watched on the net. I reduced my addiction to my smart phone, although I do still struggle with that one. One major achievement was removing all of my games and Facebook.

I reduced or removed my exposure to negative people and increased or added positive people to my life. This was both online and off.

I questioned my work, and how I spent my time. Slowly I have reduced my selling-time-for-money work and increased my time-investment type work.

I had a horrible relationship with money, was $13,500 in consumer debt and hadn’t done my tax in a decade. Within 18 months I caught up on all of my tax, paid off my debt, then got myself thousands of dollars ahead. Throw in Jess’s contribution and we are well and truly ahead financially. The major reason we were able to do this is simple: We reduced our spending to the essentials. Although, as with all elements, we keep tweaking and improving.

Now that I had this clutter free space, spare time to do what I please, had improved the people I spend my time with, evolved my work practice and changed my relationship to money, what did I do with it?

Before I answer that, let me talk a little about Jess. I still vividly remember the first time I met Jess face-to-face. The initial connection was made through online dating, and then we agreed to meet at a Thai restaurant on a beautiful September evening. I remember sitting across from her, looking deep into her eyes, seeing her face light up as she talked about painting and how she loved it and how she wanted to do it more.

At that time, I was performing for a living, mostly doing children’s entertainment. I absolutely loved it, and was definitely living the dream. So I said to Jess, just do it. Paint. Stop dreaming, and make it a part of your life. Then we talked about how she could do that.

Later Jess recalled that this was one the main elements that she found attractive. The fact I was supportive and encouraging and willing to help her make it a part of her life.

So she did. A little. But that little bit here and there led to two paintings that I received for Christmas that year. I am sitting here looking at them whilst I write.

But she struggled as all artists do. Her struggles were mostly related the cluttered life she led, both in stuff and time and obligations and guilt and negativity.

As I noted earlier, it was not long after I met Jess that I discovered minimalism. Jess took a lot longer to embrace the idea. I would read great pieces of writing to her, which we would follow up with interesting conversations and questions. Also, Jess started seeing the benefits in my life.

I was writing and truly enjoying the creative process. I was also more joyful and thoughtful throughout my daily life, as I was much more focussed on delighting her through experiences and moments, rather than buying her stuff.

But I was also challenging, which led to a roller coaster of emotional journeys at times, for us as a couple, but also for both of us individually.

It was worth it though.

Life took an interesting turn about 6 months into our relationship, and we ended up moving in together. This accelerated our growth as a couple, and enabled us to really negotiate our stuff and time.

In regard to the stuff, we left 90% of it in the garage, as neatly organised as possible in boxes and shelving. Then the 10% we had upstairs was just all that we needed, reducing the overwhelm over an over-cluttered space. We then used the spare second bedroom as an interim room for stuff we were sorting through. We worked out systems which were effective and not overwhelming. We got through a lot of stuff in that place.

A couple of months after we moved in, I saw Jess getting overwhelmed by her work. She developed a repetitive strain injury from data entry. And the worst was how low she was emotionally when she came home. I could see her slowly dying inside from doing such mind numbing work whilst not giving herself time to do what she really wanted to do, which was paint.

At this point our financial position was improving, but still had some work to do. But looking at the finances, it wasn’t essential for her to work. I was earning money at a much higher rate of pay, and could easily cover both of us on 20-30 hours of work a week.

So I made Jess an offer. She could quit her job and become a full-time artist.

So she did.

Now she had the space, as we used the lounge room for our creativity. She had the time. And she was free of financial obligations.

So she painted. A lot. In the next few months she pumped out dozens upon dozens of pieces, exploring ideas and concepts that she had been ‘going to do one day’ and then she created all sorts of new ideas inspired by the others.

During that time, I started a blog, with the challenge of writing daily, and have done so successfully this past year and a bit.

Since that time, we have moved twice. Also, I have published two pieces, entered competitions and started the Minimalist Couple blog with Jess. Jess has taken up photography and started a daily photo blog. She also began volunteering to teach art to people with disabilities.

Now we are living by the beach, which we can see from our balcony. Jess is still weaving her magic with painting and photography. I am writing more and more, with a draft of a novel getting closer to publication, along with many other pieces in the works. I am teaching circus skills and acrobatics to inspirational students, and working a couple of nights a week doing maths tutoring. We have various projects in the works, including a video editing project for Grandparents Day. Throw in a writing course I am doing with Joshua Fields Millburn from The Minimalists in November. Also, we are in the initial stages of starting an artists collective, with some fantastic support from important people in the community.

Our lives are now all about art and creativity and contribution. This simply came through questioning everything.

So why bother?

For me, I am the happiest I have ever been in my life and I am the most creatively inspired I have ever been.

I hope our stories have helped to inspire your journey, and we would both love to hear about your stories. You can find out more about Mark and Jess at Minimalist Couple.  Also, please check out Bethany’s post, “Hitting the Reset Button,” featured on our blog today.