Minimalist Life, Simple Life, Happy Life

When we moved to Hawai’i back in 2014, we only shipped 4500 pounds of household goods over with us. We were ready for a simpler life, and during the four years we lived on Kaua’i we only added five small pieces of furniture, a washer and dryer, and not a whole lot more. It was enough.

Still, Brett and I often asked ourselves if we could make do with less. The answer was always no though, mainly because we still had two of our daughters living with us, and we were using everything we owned. However, when it came time to prepare for our last daughter leaving the nest, and for us to begin our Big Adventure, we began shedding items again and eventually got our possessions down to just 1500 pounds. No furniture other than two small side tables, one made from an antique hibachi and one from an antique Japanese kotatsu, and two small rugs made the cut to be put into storage back on the mainland. We sold it all.

As Brett likes to joke, these days we carry our net worth in our suitcases. While that’s not true, we do move around with very little these days. We are living a very stripped down, minimal life now, especially so this summer. Our Airbnb apartment is nicely decorated and has everything we need, up to and including a slow cooker and small hand mixer, but there are no extras, no frou-frous. We are living without a car as well, and have found that to be less hassle than we expected. Going with out a car has actually been quite freeing.

We love our life right now. We can’t get over how free and light we feel living with so little. There are no geegaws or tchotchkes to dust or maintain, no books to keep track of, no car insurance to pay or gas to buy. We’re producing less trash these day. We have a basic set of cookware and enough utensils, but our cooking is simpler these days and we eat less. There is a small set of dishes but enough that we usually can get away with running the dishwasher only every other day. All purchases, clothing included, are made with purpose, and after thought and discussion.

We are also not tied down these days with loads of obligations. While we miss our family and love spending time with them and our friends, our days and our time are for the most part our own for a change, with the freedom to decide what to do each day or even if we want to do anything at all.

The best thing though about our simple, minimalist life in Portland is that we’re getting to experience and contemplate how small we can live after we eventually settle down in our own place. We may not want all those things we thought we couldn’t live without when we left Hawai’i, although I suspect we will keep most of them. But maybe not. We can see ourselves living in a much smaller space than we first imagined, even a studio apartment, as Brett and I have learned this past year about how to carve out our own spaces. Being in a truly small place doesn’t scare us any more. Being able to live without owning a car would be the icing on the cake.

Less truly is more these days. 

12 thoughts on “Minimalist Life, Simple Life, Happy Life

    1. It’s been a process, and 10 years ago I certainly couldn’t have guessed this is where we’d be (and loving it). It’s wonderful not to have so much on our plates these days.

      Of course, living minimally for us is a choice and a privilege, something I try never to take for granted – we have enough that we don’t have to forego necessities. Living small however frees up more of our income to do the things that we desire and that make us happy (i.e. travel).

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  1. I like what you say about living small freeing up your income to do what makes you happy. I subscribe to that thought for the most part. I don’t have a lot of “toys”; I’m not a big shopper; I enjoy time at home; I seldom go out to eat; tools & yard equipment are pretty basic; much that entertains me is free. I have enough to maintain as it is. However, I do believe that we humans tend to use up any time, space, money at hour disposal. Like you say, it is a privilege to have enough and good on you for recognizing that. I admire your ability to engage in the lifestyle you’ve chosen.

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    1. It is a privilege. It took us a while to get here, but it’s as wonderful as I hoped it would be. The greatest privilege has been all the time we have these days. I feel like you do right now about our stuff – we have enough to maintain, we don’t need more.

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  2. I find that, the older I get, the less I need. One of my true pleasures is going through our house, and finding things we aren’t using & then selling, donating, or recycling. I’m all about optimization. Happy for us to have things that make our lives easier, or that we actively use. If it doesn’t fall into those categories, I want us to strongly consider getting rid of it.

    We are also thinking about our future state. Love our neighborhood & outdoor area, but clearly don’t need a four bedroom house when the kids are gone. Less maintenance + less expenses + less stuff sounds amazing. Just have to decide on the where & when!

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    1. Every time I visited or stayed over at my Grandmother’s house, she always told me she was “thinning things out” and she would give me something. She seemed to have quite a bit in her house, but I realize now she was never bringing anything new in – she didn’t need more than she had. My mom wasn’t all that into things either – she wanted experiences (although structured ones – she loved going on tours). Both of them influenced me far more than I know.

      Getting rid of stuff does take effort, but it’s so much nicer when everything you have is something you use or that makes your life easier and more pleasant. It’s that William Morris phrase – “keep nothing that is not useful or that you believe to be beautiful.” I’m finding beauty in owning less.

      You will probably find your post-kids place before we do!

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  3. Although I love our home and yard, this year I’m finding myself discussing downsizing with DH. The work required to keep up the gardens is tiring and I enjoy so many other things that don’t make me ache. 🙂 So we’re been looking around at options, but so far we haven’t found anything that excites us or would make us move. But it’s coming…

    We’ve been purging a bit, but there is SO much more to do. I try to keep moving in that direction, but it’s slow going. And it’s wonderful that you both have the same attitude on this! I am the purger and DH is a bit of hoarder (IMO, of course…ha!). I’m sure moving to a smaller space would help a lot in just ‘getting rid’ of things. He can see that we need to do that, but actually pulling the trigger seems challenging.

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    1. The upkeep of our last house really got to me the last few years we lived there; I really was ready to pass it on to someone else by the time we sold it. And it was new construction! It was less than 10-years old when we sold it but there were all sort of things that had to be fixed or repaired during that time. Nothing as major as the upkeep we did on our 1924 bungalow, but still.

      Brett had always been a major packrat and I was always the purger, but when we started to downsize for our move to Hawaii he caught the bug and is now maybe more of a minimalist than I am. He started out by tackling small chores – he would give himself a goal (“clean off my desk in one week”) and found himself thrilled with the success of each task and made them bigger and bigger as he went along.

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  4. I find posts like this so inspiring. I don’t see my wife and me going quite as far as you and Brett in downsizing or even contemplating life in a studio apartment…we need our own space for our interests and projects. But, that said, the topic always prompts me to consider what is excess and what is essential to our satisfaction.

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    1. We had to learn quickly how to live truly minimally once we started traveling. In Strasbourg our Airbnb was less than 300 sq. feet, and I initially thought there was no way we could make that work, but it turned out to be our second favorite apartment, and the space worked well for us. We got along fine, carved out our own spaces, and figured out how much we could do with minimal accoutrement.

      The best question we learn to ask ourselves was “do we want to pay to ship this to Hawai’i (or back).” It made us look closely at whether something was excess or necessary. We have found as we go along that it takes less and less to keep us happy, active and satisfied when it comes to stuff or space.

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  5. Our individual life journeys are so interesting, aren’t they? I can completely understand, and even relate, to what you’ve written, even if it’s not where we are currently. We actually moved to a bigger home in retirement, however, we have much less stuff now, than in our prior home. I was shocked at how much stuff we had at move in, because I consider myself a pretty tidy, organized person. So we sold and gave away tons of stuff here as we settled in. Still, it is a house and all that goes along with.

    We have made the outside of the house about 90% hardscape and artificial turf, however, so we can pretty much lock up and go for several months at a time with no more concerns than if we were in a condo. We’ll be putting this to the test soon, and if all goes well, we are likely here for the next 10-15 years. At that point I want to sell this house, put our remaining stuff into storage, and travel abroad for a year. Upon our return, I want to buy a beach-adjacent condo or townhome in our current area, where we’ll have what I consider the best of two worlds: a true lock-and-go, and the beach outside our door, figuratively, whenever we want.

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    1. We are at different stages and places in where we are and where we are ready to be. I think if our daughters were closer, or had the opportunity to visit more, or if our son and family lived closer as well we might have a house somewhere (but traveling in between). Who knows though? I am surprised by our embrace of the minimalist life – we never saw it coming, as they say. It was always something someone else accomplished.

      Your two reasons for living where you do – a lock-and-go and the beach outside – are the reasons we want to settle in your area (eventually). As we move around as well we see that the climate is best for us, warm and sunny and low to no humidity. We have been plagued by allergies here this summer, so on top of the gloomy winters summers that is also a problem that we can hopefully avoid in SoCal.

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