The Villages Photo by Tetraeder – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

How to go minimalist and mobile

My friend Dianne was the first person I’d ever known to go minimalist. She was living in the Villages outside of Orlando, Florida⏤a 55+ community known for its affluence and also for being a bit of “bubble,” removed from the outside world. In her 2,100-sf house, Dianne had all the trappings of her highly successful life as clinical researcher. She traveled a lot for her job and in the process started noticing some things. Such as, when she stayed at the Residence Inn for work, it was like living in a big apartment.

“This is all I really need,” she says, remembering the words she started telling herself. “I also started looking longingly at trailer parks. Like, what a simpler life. No $3500/month in mortgage and utilities for one person.”

If she lived in a smaller home, she mused, all that extra money could be going towards retirement or savings. 

“I started to see the big life I had,” she reflects, “being surrounded by the elite and the entitled, and how they held onto their privilege. I started thinking, Why am I here? I don’t need any of this.”

The Villages photo source: Tetraeder, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Stepping up her life by stepping down from a big house

Dianne now lives in a small room, similar to a motel room, next door to her daughter in Pennsylvania. It has a dresser and a cupboard for food, a bathroom but no kitchen. En route to her current living situation, she lived briefly in a trailer in Delaware. 

“Sometimes I want a bigger place,” she says, “maybe with a kitchen and a kitchen sink. When I start thinking like that, I start thinking about taking up more room–so it passes.”

One drawback of not having a bigger place is that she can’t entertain anyone or have a party. “But I didn’t do that a whole lot anyway,” she says. 

Holding on to stuff, like artwork

Not everything was easy to let go of. Dianne still has a collection of paintings and artwork she collected from original artists. But she’s in conversation with a friend who has some bare walls and is planning to drop the artwork off at her house. 

The other thing? Jewelry. Expensive jewelry. “There’s something about having jewelry,” Dianne says. “I don’t even wear jewelry but you hear stories of the Nazis invading Europe and how the Jewish families smuggled out jewelry. That stuff got them onto their feet in the new world.”

Whittling away at a lifetime of stuff

In the Villages, Dianne had been whittling down her things for some time, recognizing when she didn’t need or use something anymore. She took things to the Salvation Army and when it came time to move, she knew everything she owned would have to fit in an 8’x5’ trailer that she would hitch on the back of her car. 

When she got to Delaware, she whittled even more. And what she found in the process was the less stuff she had, the more free she felt. 

“It was very eye-opening about how I lived my life and what I assumed⏤the basic assumption of life⏤was all off! Everything kind of opened up. I wasn’t dealing with ego. I asked my ego to go live in one room, to move into that over a 2100-sf house in a beautiful, affluent community.”

It wasn’t hard. Mostly because of the context Dianne created for herself. It became like a game she was playing with her life, like “Can I do this?”

​Her journey into minimalism paralleled her spiritual journey, in which she recognized: “I am who I am whether I live in a 2,000-sf house or in a trailer. I don’t wanna be two different people. I wanna be the same person in either place. I wanted to put my money where my mouth was. It was like a spiritual challenge. Are you that guru on the mountain, will you still go to the cave and love life?”

The Villages photo source: Tetraeder, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

From humble beginnings to humble: Choosing minimalism

As a contractor working in the pharmaceutical industry, Dianne has an amazing job lifestyle and earns excellent money. But that’s not how life started out for her. She grew up in a poor family and was never encouraged to get an education or a good job or to make something of herself. But after having children, she saw an opportunity to grab life by the reins. She went back to school, got a college degree in the sciences, and went on to make a six-figure income.

“I have built and consciously created myself in my mind,” she says, of her confidence in who she is and what she believes about herself and the world. “This really showed me–consciously, not out of necessity–I went back down to where I came from and below that. But I’m the same person wherever I am.” 

Plus she’s able to save a lot of money, for her own future and for her grandson.

Being minimal and mobile is a way of life Dianne has gotten used to living over the last few years. “What it is,” she observes, “is total freedom. And yet I find I’m more content being where I am, just by knowing I can pick up and go wherever I want.”

After she traveled the world and lived a very full life, she adds. “Because I have lived my life so fully, doing and having everything my little heart wanted, I have no real desire anymore. The doing of stuff is not a real priority. Just being. And I don’t have to be anything, I just am.” 

Nowadays, Dianne practices her minimalist skills by downsizing her thoughts. “I goof off now,” she says, compared to in the past when her mind was always going, going, going. “Why not try to minimize my thoughts, too?”

Baby steps towards minimalism

Minimalism isn’t for everyone and it’s certainly not something that has to be done all at once. Dianne advises taking baby steps. “If you wanna throw out one thing a year, do that. Or if you wanna donate one thing a year, do that. If you really want to embrace minimalism, you won’t have to. It’ll embrace you.”

For Dianne, minimizing become imperative. It would have been akin to having layers of winter clothes on, she says, and the temperature going up to 80 degrees. “That’s how I felt about getting rid of stuff I hadn’t looked at in years.”

She also points out that going minimalist doesn’t have to be forever. We always hesitate to get rid of stuff “just in case” and end up holding onto things that cost $5 at the store and are easily replaceable. If you’re thinking: “If I get rid of all this stuff, then I’ll need things again.” 

To counteract any hesitation, Dianne says to stop saying, “Just in case.”

“I took a lot for granted,” she says. “I had fun, don’t get me wrong. I never thought I could purchase a home that beautiful on my own. I enjoyed traveling and all the courses I participated in. I got all that out of my system.”

Also, she advises, try playing it as a game and watch your own knee-jerk reactions, how automatically you start picking up stuff at the store.
“Fill a cart up and then just leave it,” she giggles. “Because it’s all impulse buying.” 

Have a minimalist story to share? Get in touch.
Interested in tiny house living or investing? Find out more