In this blog post, I’m answering another reader question! This time about how my minimalist lifestyle has influenced my career:
“I’m curious about one particular part of your journey, which is how you managed to transform minimalism in terms of stuff into minimalism in terms of life vs career. Is it all due to less money going out, less money need coming in, or did you find that you actually got the mental space and energy to create a new career for yourself?“ —Felicia via email
I love this question because it’s a great opportunity to share some of the powerful (yet often overlooked) ways minimalism can change your life. Having a decluttered home is wonderful, but I think that in the long-haul, it’s only a very small piece of the puzzle.
Ultimately, minimalism is a tool to help you live true to yourself and it can be used to transform all areas of your life. The story of how minimalism empowered me to change my career is just one example.
MINIMALISM, INTENTIONAL LIVING + COMMITMENT
Before I share my story, I just want to clarify a few things about what minimalism means to me.
First and foremost, my personal minimalism practice is not about owning as few things as possible or about constant decluttering. Instead, it’s all about intentionality and being mindful of what deserves space in my life.
It started with decluttering my home but it quickly evolved into something more; I realised that the same questions I was asking about my stuff—“Why do I want to keep this? How is it adding value to my life”—could also be asked of my schedule, my spending, my relationships and more.
As part of this evolution, I learned that minimalism and intentional living must go hand in hand. You can’t truly commit to one without also committing to the other (and I’d even be tempted to argue that they are two sides of the same coin!).
Finally, speaking of commitment, I believe that minimalism is a way of life. Most of the changes I talk about on this blog (including the story I’m about to share) didn’t happen overnight. Instead, they took years of commitment to a minimalist and intentional way of living.
I wish this wasn’t the case—my blog would probably get a lot more traffic if I promised you could change your whole life in a weekend! But in my experience, real change only happens when you’re consistent and committed in the long term.
Now, with that out of the way, onto my career story! ?
RELATED POST: What It Really Means to Be a Minimalist
MY CAREER BACKGROUND
Let’s start with a bit of background. During my 20’s I worked in various sales roles: I was a travel agent, an account manager for a fundraising program, and the marketing manager for a small tourism company—and for the most part, I was really unhappy at work.
Although I was successful (at least on paper), sales never brought me any joy. I couldn’t find the balance between making targets and serving my customers, so a part of me always felt like I was selling out.
But it wasn’t just that. I know it’s a bit of a cliché but deep down, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was meant to do something else with my life.
After all, I never intended to have a career in sales. I actually studied physics, engineering, mathematics AND economics in college! I spent five years, bouncing from one major to another … and then never actually finished my degree.
I worked full-time while studying full-time and not surprisingly, after five years I was exhausted and burnt out. I decided I needed a break and I took a year off to work and travel overseas.
At this stage, things get complicated. One year turned into two and I ended moving to Australia, where I still live today (I’m originally from the US).
My plan was to go back to school but it just wasn’t possible because of my visa type, so I decided to get a job instead. This is how I ended up working as a travel agent and the start of my career in sales.
I always had the intention of finishing my degree but it never seemed like the right time. One thing led to another and next thing I knew, I had a full-fledged career and it seemed silly to walk away from it.
Sure—I wasn’t happy—but who really likes their job? No one I knew. And besides, I was nearly 30 with a mortgage and bills to pay. Even if I wanted to, it was too late. I was stuck.
PHASE 1: THE COURAGE TO CHANGE
This is where I was in my career when I first discovered minimalism and I should add that even though I didn’t like my job, I was a workaholic. I regularly worked 60+ hour weeks, I never said no to extra projects, and my thoughts and feelings about work consumed my life.
My only relief from work was shopping and (surprise) I was a shopaholic too! I shopped to relieve stress from work and I worked to pay for all my shopping. (Admittedly, there’s more to this story but my shopping and working addictions definitely fed off of each other.)
In short, my life was a mess. Things looked good on the surface but behind closed doors, I felt like I was drowning. I was desperate for a change but I felt trapped by my life choices.
This all changed when I discovered minimalism.
This might sound strange to you but when I first started learning about minimalism, it blew my mind! It feels silly saying this now but at the time, the idea that one might intentionally choose to live with less stuff was completely foreign to me.
“People want less … on purpose?!”
Honestly, it was liberating and quite frankly, empowering! After years of hiding behind my stuff and my to-do list, I was finally taking off my mask and embracing my true self.
I was on a high and it led to a period of dramatic change in my life. Within six months, I sold almost all my belongings, ended a long term relationship, left my job and moved to the other side of the world.
Summary: Minimalism taught me to challenge the status quo and made me realise I didn’t have to do what everyone else was doing. This gave me the courage to walk away from a career I’d spent close to a decade building.
PHASE 2: BUILDING STRONG FOUNDATIONS
So far, I know this all might sound a little crazy! There’s actually a lot more to the story—I ended up travelling for over a year and meeting the love of my life too!
It was an amazing time … but let me get real with you.
When my travels ended, reality hit hard. I was unemployed and I’d gone into a lot of debt to pay for my trip. I’d had my fun and now it was time to get to work.
Fortunately, I found a new job quickly. This time it was an administration role at a transport company and I really liked it at first. It was something different (no sales, yay!) and I was good at my job.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t good at setting boundaries. It wasn’t long before the novelty of doing something new wore off and I found myself back where I started—working long hours at a job that I knew wasn’t right for me.
At this stage, I really wanted to quit but I knew I had to be patient.
There’s a lot of talk about the financial benefits of minimalism but the reality is it takes time—in my case, two years to be exact.
After dramatically reducing my cost of living (thanks to minimalism) I was able to pay off all my debt … and save enough to go on a seven-month honeymoon!* I quit my job (again), got married, and headed overseas!
Summary: Minimalism isn’t a magic pill and it won’t fix everything overnight. I might have left my sales career behind but I still had to be patient and do a job I didn’t like to pay off my debt and save for the future.
* For those who are curious, I did this while earning a relatively low wage. (I don’t have a college degree and this was an entry-level role I found via an employment agency.) If you want to learn more, read this post to find out how I reduced my cost of living and this post for more details about how I afford to travel.
PHASE 3: CHOOSING TO WORK LESS
When we returned from our honeymoon, I knew that it was time to do something different. We were still debt-free and had a low cost of living, which empowered me to do something radical. (Well, at least it was for me!)
I made the intentional decision to work part-time.
Not because I was raising children, not because I was studying, not for any reason other than I needed time for myself. I knew that I wanted to do something different with my life and it was going to take time and space to figure it out.
There are two ways minimalism made this decision possible:
First of all, as I already mentioned, my minimalist lifestyle meant I could afford it. I crunched the numbers and realised I didn’t need my full-time income to pay my bills or even save money.
Having said that, regardless of my finances, I know I would never have made this decision without my minimalist mindset.
Before minimalism, my life was all about earning and doing more. My self-worth was reliant on my productivity and I would’ve been too ashamed to work part-time.
After minimalism, I started to think more intentionally about my choices. Of course, if I had stayed working full-time I would have saved more money—but how did that fit in with my priorities? I decided I was willing to sacrifice part of my income in order to have more time for self-discovery.
Summary: After nearly five years of minimalism, I decided to work part-time. Minimalism made this possible because of 1. my reduced cost of living and 2. my mindset—I was open to the idea of earning less in exchange for more time.
PHASE 4: CREATING A NEW CAREER
I started this blog a few months before my honeymoon and by the time we came home, I knew that I wanted to see what would happen if I really went dedicated myself to my passion project.
To be clear, I didn’t intentionally set out to make a career out of blogging! At the time, I didn’t really understand what was possible but I knew from experience that when you try new things, you open new doors!
I decided to use my newfound free time to become a “serious” blogger. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, I started investing time and money: I went to conferences, I took online courses, and I began networking with other bloggers.
It took several years of experimenting, with many ups and downs, but in the end, I created a new career for myself. It’s a constantly evolving process (I’m learning new things all the time) but by the time my daughter was born in 2017, I was ready to really embrace Simply + Fiercely as my business.
Summary: I created a career path that I didn’t even know existed five years ago because I had the space to explore new things, without any guarantees of success.
On a final note, I think it’s really important to mention that this post is NOT about quitting your job and eventually becoming a minimalist blogger too!
Instead, the point is that when you’re committed to minimalism in the long term, you:
- find the courage to challenge the status quo
- reduce your cost of living, which you can then leverage to have more TIME
- you can then use this time to explore new things
I started a blog but you might volunteer, go back to school or become a DIY expert! These adventures may or may not lead to a new career—but that is the great thing about minimalist living.
You have more space in your home, your schedule and your chequebook to try new things and take risks without expectation. You can try things because you want to, not because you have to and when opportunities knock, you can find space to open the door.
I hope you enjoyed reading about how minimalism influenced my career! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. Alternatively, if minimalism has influenced your career path, I’d love to hear about it! x