When people hear that I don’t own an apartment or a house, that I drive around in a 15 year old car, and that I don’t own any jewelry, I usually get one of these two reactions:
“Why don’t you want to buy a new car? It looks like a piece of…poop. Aren’t people staring at you when you drive by?” (Just for the record: yes, they do stare at me and no, I don’t care.)
“Ohhhh, do you have bad credit? I’m so sorry! Don’t worry, you will find a better job and then you can afford to buy an apartment.”
People are either baffled because they can’t comprehend how a person cannot want a new car, a house, or a bunch of “stuff” or they feel sorry for me because they think I am not able to afford all of life’s essentials.
Even though it makes me sad that most people don’t even consider the possibility that I actually might be happy with the way I live, I can definitely understand the way they think. I wasn’t always the way I am today.
When I grew up it was made very clear to me that what’s really important in life is money. This belief came primarily from my mother’s side. So naturally I wanted to become rich. I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I knew in order to live a fulfilled life I had to make a certain income, buy a nice car, and own a lot of things I don’t really need but that show other people that I AM somebody, that I can afford something.
Growing up this way I was never a happy child. At that point I didn’t know why though. I never attributed it to the fact that my mother’s life (and therefore mine as well) was so consumed by material possessions and prestige. The only thing I knew was that I wasn’t happy. People around me were always complaining about not having enough money, about their jobs (which most of them hated), or other people who had too much money and therefore were considered dough bags.
Finally I decided to leave the country (I know it’s a very drastic step but I’m known for overreacting once in a while). Since I just got out of university I didn’t have a lot of savings, so I started selling everything I owned in order to have enough money for a plane ticket to the US and to be able to survive without a job for at least four months. After I liquidated all my assets (which mostly consisted of used clothes, fitness equipment, books, and my beloved car) I was left with two suitcases.
I was standing in my empty room, looking at these two suitcases that held all my belongings, and that’s when it hit me. I was finally free! What I was looking for all my life wasn’t money, wasn’t expensive cars and fancy clothes, it was freedom.
I never felt so relieved, so content, so light in my whole life! It was as if a 60 pound bag finally fell off my shoulders. That’s when I realized I don’t need all the things money can buy. I don’t want anything that weighs me down. I want to be able to fit all my belongings in two suitcases and go wherever I want to go without having to worry about who’s going to pay my mortgage, how I can afford my car payments, and without worrying that somebody might steal something from me while I’m gone.
With this new way of thinking (and my two suitcases) I moved to the US. I’ve been here for almost six years now. I don’t own any furniture (I’ve been living in fully furnished apartments since I got here), I drive a 15 year old car that I bought from a friend for one dollar, and everything I own still fits in two (well, okay, make it three) suitcases.
While a lot of the people I meet seem to feel sorry for me, I feel very blessed. Even though I don’t make a lot of money (compared to some of my friends who climbed up the corporate ladder very early on in their lives), I enjoy a high level of freedom. I don’t have to pay a mortgage, I don’t have monthly car payments, and I don’t have to pay off that 60” Flat Screen TV. If I don’t like my job anymore, I quit and work somewhere else. If I want to go to Europe for three months (like we did last year), I do it. If I want to move to a different city I can be on the next plane in two hours. It’s that simple.
I understand this lifestyle isn’t for everybody but for me it enhanced my quality of life tremendously. And while I am not here to convince you to live a minimalistic life I want to encourage you to take a look at your life the way it is right now. Are you happy? If so, great! Don’t change anything! If not, if you feel overwhelmed sometimes, if you feel as if life has you in a choke hold, and if you feel you need to change something, give it a try. Let go of some of the things you don’t need anymore, give yourself a little bit more space, and breathe in the freedom that comes with it.
Written by: Jen
The Online Personal Trainer for Women