I would love to say that I became a minimalist or became more environmentally conscious, in opposition to the consumerism crisis in America. Don’t get me wrong. Those are very cool and admirable reasons to pursue minimalism. It just isn’t how my particular brand of minimalism evolved. I sort of stumbled into minimalism as I was trying to get out of debt. I always viewed education as a way to improve my future. I had my heart set on earning a doctorate by age 30. I achieved that goal but amassed $85,000 in student loan debt along the way.
Tack on a shiny luxury car, a brand new home, a couple of babies, and a serious shopping habit and I was drowning in debt.To some, it might seem as if I had achieved the American dream. But it didn’t feel like a dream. Instead I felt trapped by the debt that I had so eagerly taken on just a few years before.
The day came that I had been dreading. No more deferments. No more grace periods. Time to pay the piper. I soon found myself working 60 hours a week just to make a dent in the loan balances. Long workdays left me tired and cranky and when I had time off I would shop, mindlessly throwing boxes of shoes and other pretty things into the cart. I had a closet bursting at the seams. I worked hard so I deserved this stuff, right?
Enter frugality and minimalism. I stop shopping. Cold turkey. Empowered, I de-cluttered and downsized my existing belongings too. As I purged I came across items that had tags on them, items I didn’t like, and items I barely remembered buying. As I tossed or donated items that I didn’t have use for, I couldn’t help but mourn the loss of all the money that had been wasted. But the lessons I learned in the process were priceless. So I stuck with it. I knew I was onto something when nearly 2 years passed and I hadn’t bought a single pair of shoes.
I eventually paid off all of the student loan debt and the car note too. In the process I redefined what success looked like for me. Not a big house, but a paid off house. Not a new wardrobe, but instead, zero credit card debt. Not a six-figure salary, especially not if I’m spending every penny of it. I am light years away from the compulsive consumer I used to be and I’m never going back. I have learned that possessions will never make me happy and that my time is more valuable than money will ever be. And that realization shapes my actions, values, and decisions. I have learned the difference between a need and a want and discovered that I actually need very little to function in life. Frugal, minimalism, debt free, simplicity or whatever you want to call it. it’s working for me.
Want to learn more about minimalism from various brown girls? My girl, Yolanda over at The Black Minimalists compiled a free ebook called Simply Black. You should download it.