My Decluttering Story (From Shopaholic to Minimalist) [Episode 1]

In this episode of The Simply + Fiercely Show, I’m pulling back the curtains and sharing all the juicy details of my decluttering story. Once a self-proclaimed shopaholic, how did I declutter my home and embrace a minimalist lifestyle? What impact did this have on my life? And what did I learn along the way? Listen to find out.

In this Episode:

  • The factors that led to my shopping addiction
  • My first experiment with minimalism and why it didn’t last
  • The turning point that led to decluttering my home and life
  • How decluttering and minimalism changed everything

Featured In This Episode:

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My Decluttering Story (From Shopaholic to Minimalist)

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPTS

Hello, and welcome to The Simply and Fiercely Show a podcast for women who want to clear their clutter and create space for freedom and joy. If your life keeps getting bigger but not better, keep listening to learn about decluttering from the inside out. It’s about creating a life that’s aligned with your values and priorities. So, you can have more of what matters, and less of what doesn’t. I’m your host, Jennifer and I’m so glad you’re here. Let’s get started. 

Hello, everyone, it’s Jen here, and welcome to Episode One of the Simply and Fiercely show and as you heard in the intro, this podcast is about simplifying and decluttering and really everything I’ve learned on my own journey from being a full-on shopaholic 10 or so years ago, to living with what a lot of people would consider a minimalist lifestyle now. 

So, I thought a good way to really kick off the show would be by sharing part of my story with you. And there’s a few reasons for this. First of all, I think it’s helpful because as you’re going to find out, my story is very, very imperfect. I didn’t just sit down one day and figure things out. Instead, it was really a massive challenge, I made mistakes, I went around in circles, I gave up quite a few times. You know. It was just a real challenge for me and it was messy, and it wasn’t easy. And I think that it’s just good to hear that sometimes, you know, because sometimes on the internet, blogs, podcasts, whatever. Things aren’t always what they say and yet, there’s a lot of materials and blogs and you’ve probably heard lots of decluttering stories, but perhaps not as many of people who are trying and utterly failing the way that I did. 

So, I guess I just wanted to kick things off by you know, putting it out there for anyone who finds it really hard the way I did and I guess it’s because I know there are people out there, like my husband, for example, who are naturally pretty minimalist. It’s actually quite funny. He’s just not a stuff person and he actually doesn’t understand at all, why I would have a podcast or a blog, or why anyone would even want to hear about topics like decluttering and minimalism, because it just comes so naturally to him. To be clear, he’s very supportive of what I do, but he just doesn’t get it right. 

But on the other hand, I know that there are a lot of people who are like me and I don’t know, for whatever reason, we’re just wired differently, whatever, we have this deeper relationship with stuff and we find that letting go. It’s just I don’t know, for me, it was, you know, almost painful sometimes and it was really one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. And so, I guess, if that’s you, if you’re struggling, decluttering and simplifying, I just want you to know that you’re not alone and so again, that’s who this podcast is for it really, for the people who struggle and who just need some support. And like I said, I’ve been there and I just think that I have some perspectives, perspectives, that aren’t talked about a lot and I’m excited to share them with you. 

So, for today, I’m going to share my story and it’s to help you feel perhaps a bit less alone. But more than that, I also want to explain why I think that decluttering and minimalism, minimalism and simplifying are so important. And yeah, I know, you might be thinking, right, like, yes, I know why it’s so important everybody wants life to be simpler. Everyone wants less stuff to clean and I get that, because, you know, that’s what I wanted to and that’s what attracted me to this lifestyle in the first place. But I guess what I found is that, that sort of those expected benefits in minimalism you know, like, like less to deal with, I guess, it’s really just the beginning, almost like the cherry on top. These are good things but the real power of decluttering and minimalism is so much deep, deeper. And I know that that sounds really cheesy. Yeah. But I think that if you’re the type of person who feels a strong connection to your stuff, the way that I did, then learning to let go really changes you on a much more fundamental level. 

Okay, so I guess enough of me blabbering about my story. I think the best way to really explain this all as to just dive in. But first I just want to say one more thing and just to say that this is my story I’m not saying that like it’s the be all and end all or just because I could do things this way you can do them exactly the same way, you know, we’re all so different. But I guess that what I want to offer is just an example of what might be possible. Okay, because as I’ll, as I’ll explain with my story, that’s what some people did for me by sharing their stories of their lives. And they planted like a seed of an idea and a mind, in my mind but in a way changed my entire life. Okay, so that might be a bit vague, but let’s just dive in. And we’ll start at the beginning. 

So, some of you might be a bit uncertain where my accent from is from, if you can’t tell I grew up in the US, I’m American but I moved to Australia, almost 20 years ago. But growing up in America, I was the child of immigrants, my dad’s American, but my mom was born in Hong Kong and I grew up really close to my Chinese side of my family, who have a Chinese restaurant I grew up, you know, working, in a sense, almost, when I was born, like I, my entire childhood was set in the restaurant. And so, I have a really strong work ethic but the other sort of side effect of that is that I started earning money earlier than I guess probably most people do. I can remember working for my grandparents when I was like, 10 years old, and they would pay me you know, 20 dollars for the day and I was the kind of kid who that money just burnt a hole in my pocket, right? And so, I would work the day at my grandparent’s restaurant, and then I’d go to like the Rite Aid for any Americans who remember Rite Aid, like down the corner and just spend my $20 right away. And so, it’s strange. Yeah, I feel like it was a strange dynamic, I had this really strong work ethic work ethic, I was never afraid to work hard but I also just really knew the power of buying things and sort of gotten the cycle of always needing more, like, from a young from a young age and I wouldn’t say that, like, my family is particularly materialistic, I mean, no more so then, you know, like your normal, I guess, American family, on average, I should say, growing up. You know, but I was just maybe exposed to it a bit more, because as I said, I had this income coming in. 

So, I should also add that I was really insecure child. I, I hated how I looked growing up, I was this half Chinese kid in a school where most people were not, I just wanted to be blonde hair blue, I just felt really insecure about myself. So, by the time I was a teenager, I was earning a pretty regular income from from working not only for my grandparents, but by 16, I had a second job as well. She used to work at Pizza Hut. So, I’d work for my grandparents and also worked at Pizza Hut, I was earning a decent amount of money, very insecure about my appearance and as a result, learned pretty quickly that I could spend my money to buy things to make me try and feel better about myself. 

So, you know, buy clothes, makeup, all that kind of thing. I was just, yeah, my money was like water through my fingers. Right, I’d earn it and I would buy things to try to fit in and feel good about myself. Again, I don’t think that’s like that different from your average teenager but you know, this is like the late 90s and I was earning, you know, 300, sometimes more a week, which is like quite a lot for a 16-year-old. So, I just had the capacity to just buy a lot. And so, by the time I went to university in my early 20s, you know, as you do, I think I had already reached the age of full-on shopaholic. And so, it wasn’t just insecurity, about my appearance, I went off to university and without making the story too long through a series of bad choices, didn’t really have a lot of close friends. So, I was very insecure, just on on so many levels and so, I would work all the time shop all the time. These were activities that kept me busy, so, I didn’t have to really didn’t have time to I guess sort of dwelled in my discomfort, right. 

Like, you know, you don’t have to feel bad that you don’t have any plans on a Friday night if you’re always working on a Friday night, right? And when I did have time off, and I was alone, and I felt, you know, lonely, I could just go shopping, right? Because shopping is like one of the last activities that you can do by yourself and you don’t feel like a loser for not having any friends. You can just shop you know as much as you want. So yeah, it’s 2021-night life all around that sort of university age. Again, like really diving into this period of shopaholicism. that’s a word and really just feeling very uncomfortable in my own skin but finding comfort in owning things and staying busy all the time. 

So, somewhere around my early 20s, my life took a bit of an interesting turn. I used to live in this seaside town, where we had a lot of students come from overseas to work for the summer. And so that’s when I first was introduced to this idea of like, backpacking, I guess, you know, depending whether you’re familiar with that, it’s like long term travel when you’re young and you, you know, sort of work as you go and you travel for like, you know, months, if not years at a time to stay and really budget accommodation which is like an idea that was completely foreign to me as like a sort of lower income 27 year old in America, the idea that, like people could just take off and travel for months or years at a time. But I met these people from all over the world Irish off the top of my head, Irish, Lithuanian, British, who were taking years off to travel. And so, it’s kind of what I mean about sharing your story. These people told me how they were doing it and it like planted the seed in my idea, this seed of an idea in my mind, right? About like, well, if they can do it, like what’s possible for me what else is out there? But I don’t know, I could do. That maybe, you know, maybe I could. 

So, through these ideas being introduced to me, I ended up spending a couple years traveling, I found that there was a program where I could move to the UK, while I were still student and work for six months, which I did and then I worked for four months in Ireland and a similar program. Then I, there was a similar program I worked for a year in New Zealand and then I actually had a partner at the time, my first husband, in the end, it was Australian, so I ended up moving to Australia. 

So, for these few years, I had, I guess, a break from my norm, right? So, I like all through my teenage and my early 20s I was a shopaholic, who was just like, literally, I just lived to earn my money so that I could spend it right. If you knew me at the time, I wouldn’t have said that time I thought I thought it was like a bit of a martyr to be honest. Like I was like, oh, woe is me. My life is so hard. I have to work so hard. I was you know, when I was in university, I worked two full time jobs 80 hours a week and I felt that I had it so much harder than everyone else. And it’s not to say my life was an easy, way that I didn’t have my own challenges, I should say, but a big part of them. Looking back now were my own problem, right? Like, I brought this upon myself because I was shopping so much but when I went overseas, and I was traveling, it was interesting for a few reasons. Like first it was my first dabble into minimalism. Even though I still brought tons more than I needed it was my first time like I just went overseas with a backpack. Obviously, you can only have so much stuff, so that was that was a really unique experience. And then what was also different was it was my first time sort of feeling like I could let myself be me. It was just being around like in a when I moved to London as gosh, I think it was 22 years old. I fell into this community of travelers were like nobody, everyone was someone foreign, everyone was somewhere new and I felt like I could be myself, and I sort of lost a lot of the insecurities that I had growing up. 

So, I had these few years where I was traveling in the end, I traveled for almost two, two and a half years. It’s hard, hard for me to remember exactly now was a long time ago. But I traveled for a few years, I had this really different experience where like I was surrounded by people who thought anything was possible. I owned much fewer possessions, I still had problems, I still shopped more than I should but nothing like I used to. And I also just experienced like a side of the world that I never thought was possible. Like I was just around young people who were just living lives that to me felt like a fantasy, right? These were like amazing dreams. And it was really amazing time in my life but then after a few years, as I said I ended up settling in Australia. 

So that was after an our two and a halfish years of traveling. So, I got married and I moved to Australia with my first husband and so you would think that after having spent these these few years traveling, like living at a backpack, you know, being exposed to adventures and a lifestyle that that I’d never seen growing up that it would have changed me and I suppose it did on some level but at the same time as soon as I settled down as soon as I moved to Australia and felt that I was like settled. I fell into a lot of my old habits, life, literally got off the plane once we moved in, I had a small inheritance at the time because my my brother had passed away. And so, we moved into this three-bedroom apartment, I had no furniture, like I said, I just moved to the country and I remember taking a moving van and driving to IKEA and literally filling it to the brim. And probably, I don’t know, weeks after we’ve moved there, I’ve got an entire three-bedroom house full of stuff. And so, I think part of that was I still had that mentality that being an adult meant owning certain things. And also, once I wasn’t traveling anymore, once I was settled, once I was trying to build this new life, a lot of the insecurities from my past sort of caught up to me. 

So, at this stage, I am maybe 24, 25. As I said, I’m getting old now. So, over the years is starting to blend together. But then from 25 to I would say 30, I really fell back into my old habits. There’s a lot I wasn’t very happy about during that period of my life and I, as I said old habits, I fell into the habit of using stuff and using shopping and using busyness as a way to sort of self soothe, I suppose would be the best way. It was like whenever, I guess part of me really missed, like, when those years when I was traveling, I had all these big dreams, I sort of thought that like life could be, you know, sort of sound cheesy, maybe a bit idealistic, but like life could be magic life could be something big, like, your dreams can come true, life can be bigger than yourself, right. 

And then when I settled back down again, it’s almost like, like I had to in my brain, I was like, well, those dreams were just silly and that was just something that you do in your early 20s. And now it’s time to grow up and to be an adult, you know, adulting. And I was having a hard time with it, I was having a hard time sort of dealing with these extremes. I guess there was part of me that was like still craving these kinds of dreams and things that I had for myself but then there’s another part of me is like, Jen, it’s time to be a grown up, it’s time to you know, buy a house, it’s time to do something with your career, it’s time to build that kind of success that you always thought you would have. You know, I grew up as I said, I grew up in an immigrant family and, and, you know, somebody that some of the stereotypes are a bit true. Like I always sort of thought that I would be more successful that I would you know, do something, you know, quote, unquote, with my life to sort of make up for all the sacrifices that, you know, my mom and my grandparents made for me. You know, and I should also add that like when I was younger, when I was in school, I was quite good at maths, like when I went to university, I studied engineering and it actually finished my university degree because I took that break, and I went traveling, like I said, and so yeah. 

By the time I was in my mid-20s, I really felt torn, because there’s a part of me that thought I’m supposed to be this really successful or, you know, traditionally successful career person with all these ideas of material success. And then there’s the other side of me that was like, had these sorts of hopeless dreams that I had no idea how I could make them happen but I craved them for myself. 

So anyway, how I dealt with that, and I guess how I dealt with that disappointment or how I dealt with those conflicting feelings. As well as my you know, insecurities that then started to resurface was to be a shopaholic and workaholic. I worked at the time a sales job, I was a travel agent and it had uncapped commission, which meant that it had like, uncapped potential for work. And I became loose people who would work later and later and later. You know, it was something that gradually kind of crept up on me until, you know, I was working late every single night, at which point I was really stressed out and then my only way of coping that I never really learned how to deal with my stress if I wasn’t traveling was to shop. 

So those are probably the most challenging years of my shopaholicism and I don’t know again if that’s a word. But I was easily shopping maybe five days a week, if not more. So, lunch break, I would shop on my way home from work. I didn’t really want to go home and be at my house, which I felt was sort of suffocating. So, I would go to the shops. My long-term relationship at the time was probably not the best. 

And yeah, so you know, I felt like all the hopes and dreams that I guess like optimism that I had in my early 20s was just gone. And now I had almost like a sense of like, well, Jen, you’ve made your bed. You’ve choose this life now you’ve got to live it and I didn’t want to so I shopped and I worked to avoid it. 

So that brings me to around my 30th birthday. At this stage, I had a life that probably from the outside looked pretty good. Like, wasn’t wasn’t richer, you know, far from it, but I managed to buy a house, you know, checking off some of these life goals. I was married to a guy who was to be clear, really great guy, really wonderful person, just perhaps not the person for me. I had a successful enough career, you know, I had I had a lot of checkmarks, right, like we’re on the surface, my life looked good. I had as I said, I was a shopaholic, I had an entire guest bedroom turned into a closet, easily over 100 pairs of shoes. Like, I spent all my free time really, when I wasn’t working, or shopping, just really thinking about fashion. I had so obsessed with fashion magazines had so many clothes that and the funny thing is at the time, I really didn’t have a huge social life either. So, I had a ton of clothes that I never went anywhere. But it was almost like a security blanket. Like, it’s almost embarrassing to admit, but I would spend a lot of time mostly like playing dress up, you know, I would just put on outfits all the time not not to go anywhere. 

So, yeah, it was a strange time because on some level, it felt like I was doing all the right things. But a deeper level, I felt like deeply unsatisfied. It was that real? Like, it’s a bit cliche, you’ve probably heard this sort of story before but like just looking in the mirror and looking at myself and being like, is this what your life is? Is this? You know, is this how everything’s turned out? Like, how did I become this person. 

So that’s where I was, as I said, around my 38th birthday, really unsatisfied, deeply sort of craving some sort of change, but not knowing what kind of change like, you know, knowing I wanted something else, but not really knowing what on earth that might be. Also feeling very trapped. Yeah, because I had, you know, a bit of consumer debt, I had credit cards, I had a mortgage. I was in, you know a relationship that wasn’t, wasn’t, wasn’t going where I wanted to go but at the same time, I didn’t feel like I could end it. Just feeling really like suffocated and trapped in my life is the best way to describe it. 

Around that same time, I was introduced to the idea of minimalism and decluttering and so when I think back, it was a few different blogs. There was a blog called Miss Minimalist, which is Francine J, and another one called Rowdy Kittens, which was some blogs about minimalism. And then there was also Project 333, which is a minimalist fashion sort of experiment by Courtney Carver. So, I, like discovered all of these around the same time and I was intrigued. 

So, at the time, I wasn’t thinking that like minimalism, or decluttering or anything was going to change my life, right. But I thought, I really liked the idea of having a more functional wardrobe. I’d seen like sort of these, I think at the time, I was just starting to read about like these bench style capsule wardrobes where everything went together and you just felt really elegant and put together and that that really appealed to me. I struggled a lot with my closet, like I said, I was that stereotypical. I have a million clothes that I have nothing to wear, I never feel good in my clothes. My house cluttered I was always cleaning, right? 

So, I was attracted to this idea of minimalism and decluttering just thinking, yeah, it would be nice for like my house to look better. For be, like I don’t have to clean all the time and really, I was really drawn to the idea of having less like minimalist wardrobe where I was just going to look like she can put together and everything was going to be simple and easy. So that was my introduction to minimalism. 

As I said, at that same time, I was struggling with these sorts of bigger issues in my life but that wasn’t looking back, I can see a connection but at the time, the initial appeal to minimalism and decluttering was really probably more like about my closet and life just being a simpler. I did read in some of these blogs, where people were sort of talking about, you know, how much life was easier, without, you know, so much stuff and bills and responsibilities that go with it. And it intrigued me. But if I’m honest, at that point, I was really just like focused on this superficial level of yeah, I just don’t want to clean and I want to look good when I get dressed without you know, spending hours at my closet. 

So that was my introduction to minimalism. Probably the tough for me to remember exactly what probably experimenting with Project 333 was where I first got my foot in the door and it was this idea if any of you who don’t aren’t familiar with it, Project 333 is you choose 33 items of clothing, depending on the roles that you follow some people who choose your accessories in that and that you only dress with that for three months. 

So, I can remember so clearly when I like, oh yeah, I’m gonna give this a try and sitting down on, like taking everything out of my closet and like trying to decide my 33 items and oh my god, I must have spent like six hours going through my clothes and like sitting there in tears, and just finding it to be utterly impossible, right. And just finding it to be like, like, I was embarrassed by how impossible it was probably some tears at the time if I’m honest, and just really struggling. 

And so that was sort of my first dipping my toes into minimalism and decluttering. And so then over the next period, which I would say, like, maybe two or three years, this actually might have been before a little before I turned 30. It’s hard for me to say again, I should probably have this timeline worked out better. But around that age, I spent like two or three years dabbling with minimalism. So, this is why I say like, I was reading these blogs and like learning so much about, you know, the value of decluttering and like reading decluttering hacks and looking at all these different things. But it was just an absolute, it was like pulling teeth, right? I would like declutter a bag of clothes and then the next weekend, I would buy, you know, at least twice what I’d gotten rid of and brought it back into the house. It was just, you know, what’s the expression one step forward, two steps back, like I was going nowhere. I can remember, as I said, clothes were a real struggle for me like just spending hours and hours looking at like one blouse. And honestly, sometimes it felt like, you know, I felt like it was crying like I just felt so I felt so stupid, like, I am a grown woman and I am brought to tears about the idea of like getting rid of a blouse because I’m so ashamed that I’ve spent like $100 on a shirt that I’ve never worn and I know I’ll never wear it. And I know, I should just get rid of it but I just can’t bring myself to let go. Right.

So, this is my life, as I said, this is it was definitely very minimal progress for several years. Why I attempted I never really, I guess completely gave up. Something told me that this idea of minimalism and decluttering like I just felt so drawn to it and I just felt in my bones, I guess that it that it would change something for me but I really struggled to make any progress. 

And then what happened was, I ended up doing a cross country move. And at a necessity had to declutter quite a lot of things. Just because, you know, we only had so much room, we were quite, we didn’t have a lot of money at the time. So, we were moving just what we could fit in our car. And so obviously, you know, that sort of forced our hand. And that was really interesting for me, I guess that was my first sort of experience of seeing the impact of perspective on decluttering. If any of you have sort of followed me and Instagram or get my emails is when you’ve probably heard me talk about this concept of, of clarity and just knowing what matters most and how that’s important for decluttering. And it’s like, you know, these shirts or for whatever, you know, whatever, I’m decluttering shirts, or shoes, or whatever, they felt so important in the moment, but then when I’m weighing it up against like, oh, well, I’m about to move and if I want to keep these, I’m not going to have room, I’m gonna have to spend, you know, thousands of dollars for a moving van. Actually, all of a sudden, that perspective, what I want more than these shoes is to move right? What I want more is to have this new life, and all of a sudden, these shoes don’t matter anymore. Right? 

So that was my first sort of experience with that and I decluttered a considerable amount during that time. Yeah, so the in probably a few weeks, I really started going through everything and having to go through this process of saying, like, you know, is this worth taking to my new life? We’re moving across the country to sort of start something, start start over, I suppose you could say, um, so I decluttered about I don’t know, maybe 60 70% of my belongings at that stage. Then I moved across the country to make what I know, it’s been a really, really long story. 

But to make it a little bit shorter, not long after that my relationship broke up, I ended up moving back overseas for a little while, I moved to America for a little bit, stayed with my mom and really had like a full rock bottom moment. I’d reached that point where my relationship is ended. I’ve walked away from my career to sort of start over go back to the States for a bit. I had given up my house might the house that I owned was was, you know, as renting it out. And so, at this stage, I can’t even remember how old I was in my early 30s, like staying at my mom’s house, I have bills piling up, I don’t have a job. I don’t have you know, anything. I’m really like rock bottom here and obviously, you know, I would take that with a grain of salt. I know that there’s different levels of rock bottom, I guess it was just a point for me that where I was really like, you know, I’m in my early 30s and what do I have to show for it? Right, what I have to show is that for like, a bunch of shoes and storage in Australia. 

So, you know, I won’t lie had a bit of a pity party for myself. But somewhere around that point, I also had the realization that, hey, I guess one of the benefits of sort of starting over and giving up, giving up everything was just it gave me an opportunity to think about what I wanted, right? It was like starting over and it was, it was freeing in some ways. And so, I guess for the first time in my adult life, instead of just doing like, what I thought was expected of me, right, like, so you settled, how I’d been living my life was okay, well, you settle down, and of course, you get a job and then of course, you want to buy a nicer car. And of course, you shop on the weekends, because that’s what people do. And of course, you buy a house, and of course, you try to get a raise, and you try to you know, I did all these things without really thinking about it, right? I just did what you’re supposed to do because that’s what adults do and that’s what successful grownups, you know, that’s just life. 

But then, once all of that was sort of taken away. I was kind of like, well, now you’re starting over, right, you’re already behind, you’re already starting over 30, you already have you know, you’re already, success, I suppose traditional success. In my mind at that time, was already given up on, that ship had sailed, I suppose you could say. So, it gave me the opportunity to think, okay, well, now I’m starting over, like, what kind of life do I want? Like, what what matters to me? You know, how do I want to live? Because if I’m going to start over anyway, at least this time, maybe I’m going to try and do it on my own, you know, live by my own rules. 

So that was a real turning point. Again, making a long story a little bit shorter, I ended up moving back to Australia, after doing a bit more traveling and actually met my current husband, who’s British. So, he came back to Australia with me and here, we were having this whole new life and so even though I’d already decluttered a lot of my belongings, that’s sort of where I feel that I really started to truly embrace minimalism because even though I had decluttered that sort of initial round of decluttering, it was more like my hand was forced, if you know what I mean, because I was moving, I had to get rid of those things. Where I didn’t necessarily put much intention or into fault into, like, why I was getting rid of them was now when I came back to Australia had this fresh start. 

You know, I’ll be honest, my like, part of me, it was just like, being in my early 20s. Again, when I first moved to Australia, part of me was like, oh, my gosh, I’ve moved back here, okay, I need to hurry up, I need to get a place to live, I need to fill it out with belongings, I need to like, prove to the world that I’m an adult again. But instead, after sort of having this bit of bit of a breakdown, for lack of a better word, I sort of think “What if I just try something different?”. So, for example, I think at this stage, maybe it was like 32, or something, we ended up instead of, you know, my last time I was in Australia, I had a three bedroom, no two-bedroom townhouse that I owned. And now few years later, I’m back in Australia and this time, I ended up moving into a studio unit that was, I don’t know, maybe 140 square foot. It was actually student housing, we didn’t even we actually shared our bathroom in our kitchen with a different, like a different apartment. 

So, we were like bare bones and it was just time for me. I just feel like I’ve really started to think intentionally about the life that I wanted to live. And what I noticed that’s probably where I really started to change my shopping habits as well as start to think about the value or I guess the tradeoffs I should say of everything in my life, right. So, the way I would say that is like when I would go into a shop and as I said before I’m shopaholic, I never used to think really even intentionally at all about why I would go into a shop and now I started to think of everything like every time I would look at buying something I would say well, what do I want more this sweater or the shoes? Or do I want the freedom that I have? 

Because for the first time, as I said after sort of hitting rock bottom and giving everything up, I, even though it was somewhat depressing. But on some levels, it was like this freedom, right? Like I was in my early 30s but I was living like I did when I was 22. And so, there was suddenly I just started to see everything, all the possessions in my life differently. Like a shoe wasn’t just a shoe, right? It was like another brick in a wall that I was like chaining myself, you know, caging, myself, I should say in. And so that’s why I started to think really, intentionally. And I would say that’s where I started to embrace minimalism, because it was no longer about what I owned but I started to really think about why I owned, what I owned, and what value was adding to my life and what I was giving up to, to have it. 

And that was sort of the initial point and that really started to spiral. So then for the next few years after that, that’s really when I started, I think a year after that I started blogging and talking about minimalism, because it was really these values trade off, that I was really focused on this idea that, you know, that it’s, I guess, it’s a bit cliche, you’ve probably heard this, like minimalism, sort of, quote ,trying to remember what it was, Oh, it’s just sort of like the idea that minimalism is about having you know, more of what matters, right and giving up what doesn’t, so that you can have more of what matters and that’s when I really started to feel that not just hear it, not just hear the quotes or rebuild post, but really, fundamentally feel it at a deeper level. 

And so just a guess, giving you some perspective, again, that’s probably like five or so years from like, when I first even heard the idea of minimalism or first even attempted to declutter anything, five or so years before I really started to feel differently. And as I said, about a year after they started blogging and writing about it, but I was still really learning and what really came in the next few years after that was like really taking it even a step further and really breaking down all the emotions and really understanding why I kept things and why I buy things. 

So that’s when I really started to understand that things like the insecurity that I felt about my parents, you know, for all of my teenage and early adult years, were part of the reason that I shopped so much, you know, it was to hide, you know, I hid behind high heels, because they made me feel better. And also, the insecurity I felt about, you know, just my friendships or how I felt socially was why worked so much because if you stay busy all the time, you don’t have to feel the discomfort of feeling lonely. You don’t have to feel anything, you can shop and stay busy and never have to face any of your demons. 

So that’s when I feel like minimalism really started to take on a new, I don’t know, a new level for me. And I guess, summing things up. I’m not very good at being brief as you could tell, if I really sum things up. What I’ve really learned in the years that followed, as I sort of dove deeper into minimalism, not just on a personal level of living it but also through the experience of sharing my story, if any of you who are new here, I’ve been blogging about minimalism since 2015, late 2015, so just writing and attracting people, you know, in the more recent years teaching people about about decluttering is that the real benefits of owning less the real benefits of decluttering and minimalism, yeah, you have less stuff. 

Like right now I have minimalist wardrobe, right and I love it and it’s easy for me to get dressed. I don’t even think about what to wear, and I just, you know, pull anything out, and I feel good. And obviously, that’s great, right. And I like how my house looks like. Now I have two kids and we live in an in my husband, so there was the four of us living in a 660 square foot apartment and I can love it, like I don’t feel overwhelmed, there’s four of us here, and like, we have too much stuff. So that physical level of decluttering and minimalism is great. I won’t lie. But if I was going to say like, if I was going to sell you on a reason why you should care, if I was going to give you, you know, a why a motivation or a reason to go down this journey with me. The reason would be is that minimalism and decluttering helped me regain my sense of self. 

So how should I say this? You know, I was telling you in my early 20s, that all these dreams and all these things that I thought was possible, right? And I didn’t necessarily know all the answers when I was, you know, 22 and traveling around the world. I didn’t necessarily know even what I wanted from life, right? I just knew a feeling I wanted to feel alive. I wanted to feel excited about my life. I just wanted to go on adventures and learn new things and have meaningful relationships and conversations but I lost that over the years. 

You know, the more I worked and the more I’ve shopped, I got into this bubble where it just felt like life was about like going through the motions and it was like I was living on autopilot, really. But as I sort of broke my dependence on working and shopping, I created space in my life, right? Space that wasn’t necessarily comfortable. 

Decluttering minimalism isn’t like a magic pill, it didn’t like make everything great in my life and a lot of that space that I, it created was actually to deal through past traumas and hurts and all sorts of things that aren’t fun to do. But really, at the end, it gave me space to dream again, it gives me space to feel hopeful.

You know, it’s a bit like, it feels like, if somebody said to you tomorrow, that like, any of your dreams would come true, any of your wildest dreams would come true. You know, if someone said that, to me, 10 years ago, I’d be like, oh, that sounds great. But I’ve got all these responsibilities and I’ve got a mortgage and I’ve got, you know, a whole closet full of crap, I can’t just go off and chase my dreams, right? But now, even with two kids, like, I feel like, I just feel this freedom and I just feel like there’s more possibility and there’s more hope. And I’d have space to try things and to fail, like, my blog has podcasts, or all these things like, these only exists because I created space in my life to experiment and to do things and to be messy and to fall on my face. And yeah, I guess almost live, it reminds me I’m, you know, thinking of my kids with like, being a child where you can just try things without expectation. And you can do that because you have space. 

And by space, I mean, less physical stuff weighing me down, you know, space in my wallet as well, like when I stopped, you know, when I downsized my life, a link in the show notes, I read a blog post about how, you know by living in that, that studio apartment that I told you about earlier, I was able to pay off all my consumer debt, I was able to save up quite a lot of money, I reduced my living expenses by at one stage like 80%. Not now, now that I’ve kids, it’s coming back up a little bit but you know, I’ve created room where I’m not just like in the cycle of like working to shop and to like, where every day, it’s just like, how do I survive? How am I going to get things done, and I created that space intentionally, by decluttering and simplifying. And just to be clear, it’s not something that happens overnight, like it was five years of doing it. 

Five years, it probably at least five years of real intentional work but I was able to create the space in my life. Another thing I was able to create, the other thing I think is really, really valuable. Another huge reason for pursuing minimalism or decluttering is the way I feel about myself in terms of like my confidence and my self-worth. So, I don’t know, this one might not apply to everyone but for me, as I said, my busyness and my shopping are very much a reaction to me feeling like I’m not good enough, right? I’m not beautiful enough but if I buy a lot of four-inch heels, I’m going to feel better shoes were like my security blankets. Like if I didn’t feel good about myself, but then I put on a pair of four-inch heels that was sort of my way of feeling better, feeling more confident. Or, you know, if I, you know, felt insecure, like, you know, my friends or people I knew back home had better jobs and I wasn’t living up to it but I had an expensive handbag, I could pretend it would make me feel better. 

You know, the things I owned, the way I think of as almost like a mask, right? Like, I don’t feel good about who I am but I can buy all these things that project a story that I want to tell. Right? So, it’s like kind of writing this fantasy, which wasn’t even just about myself. It was like, just about how I thought other people perceived me. Same with work. Like as I said, I grew up in a minimalist family like, oh sorry, I did not grow up in a minimalist family. I grew up in an immigrant family. My grandparents when I was growing up, were 365 days a year. They used to work every day but a half day on Mondays and open to close in a restaurant up until I think the like. I think my grandparents were in their mid-60s when they close. So yes, it’s a pretty high bar for hard work, it’s like no matter how hard I work, I’m not working as hard as you know, my family members. 

And I guess I really had this idea that what made me special wasn’t that I was smart wasn’t that I had anything special to offer but almost more than I could suffer more than anyone else. Like I could work 80 hours a week and still get up and drag myself out. And so, it was a bit shocking really like when I started to work less, I owned less, I shopped less. I didn’t need as much money I didn’t have to work as much as I used to. I had this, this crisis of confidence at first where I was like, well, who am I? If I’m not the person who works harder than everyone else? Who am I? If I don’t have a closet full of four-inch heels? Who am I, if I’m, you know, if I don’t have all these things in my life to tell my story. And again, this is not something that happens overnight. 

But after years of sort of having to do the work of letting go, of having to actually you know, you know, answer those questions. Yes, it sounds kind of vague, but actually sort of try to figure out what who am I without these things. I’ve changed completely how I feel about myself. And again, I know it’s a bit cheesy and a bit cliche but you know, I’m about to be 41. By the time this goes to air probably be by 40, I’ll probably be 41 already. You know, I stopped coloring my hair a few years ago, I’ve let my grays go. I’ve had two kids now I’m you know, a bit heavier, probably than I’ve ever been in my life. But at the same time, I feel more confident in my skin than I felt as like a skinny 22-year-old or that I’ve really felt any other time in my life. You know, I’ve given up my career, I blog and teach decluttering courses full time, I have a career that most people don’t even understand. Like, if I go to a dinner party, and I try to explain what I do, people are like what, you know, where I used to have like a, you know, one point I was a marketing manager for a company, I was traveling overseas, I had like a job title that felt more impressive than I do now. But I feel more comfortable in who I am. And I genuinely believe that the kind of optimism that I have the dreams that I’m able to hold on to hold space for the confidence that I have that I never thought I would have all of this is a byproduct of decluttering, minimalism and simplifying, okay. 

And it’s not just, it’s not just owning less stuff magically makes this happen but it’s about who you become on the journey as you start to go through all the things that you own and all the things that you do and all the things that you buy. And you start to question everything, and you start to break down, you know, where does your clutter come from? 

It is like the best example, I can think it’s like, you know, when you have a sculptor, who’s like chipping away the stone, and that’s just like your life now is like this big blobby rock and you’re chipping away all the clutter and then the statue that’s revealed underneath is sort of your authentic self. And it’s like as you get rid of all the things that you think you should be, or all the things that thinks that you have to do and as you let go of it, you tap into your true self. 

So yeah, I guess it’s a bit cheesy, but that is my passion for decluttering and minimalism. Like I’m not, for anybody who’s new here who’s not really familiar with my work, I am not really a homemaker in the sense of like, I’m not going to give many interior design tips. I am not like going to tell you how to style small room on a budget. I’m you know, and I don’t really have like a lot of like practical hacks, I’m not going to tell you how to get your laundry done quicker, you know, but what I believe in and what this podcast is all about is really decluttering from the inside out. It’s about this really intentional process of getting clear on what we want out of life, right, like getting clear on our hopes and dreams and then taking intentional action to have more of what matters and less of what doesn’t. 

So, thanks for listening to my story. If you enjoyed this podcast, please it’s new, so feel free to share it with a friend leave a review and check back soon because I’ll be sharing lots more about my decluttering journey, what I’ve learned how things have changed and I’m hoping that you’ll be here to join me. That’s all for now. Have a good one. Bye. 

Thank you for listening to The Simply and Fiercely Show. If you want to learn more, you can download my free mindful decluttering guide and learn all the secrets that helped me go from shopaholic to minimalist all you need to do is visit simplyfiercely.com/freeguide that’s all one word to get instant access. Until next time, thanks again.

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