In my quest for a simpler life I’m always fascinated by people who’ve not just talked about living with less but actually followed it through.
I’ve recently been introduced to Holly Mitchell, a 24 year-old buyer (ironically) and writer, who lives in Leeds. She and her fiancé Ben are proud minimalists.
Here’s a little chat I had with Holly:
So tell me about your minimalist journey?
Minimalism has completely changed our lives over the past two years. When Ben and I first moved in together we lived in a three bedroom house – purely to accommodate the sheer volume of stuff I’d accumulated over a lifetime!
In truth, I was a hoarder. I had wardrobes filled with clothes all over the house, walls lined with bookcases and every visible shelf was packed with trinkets. Fast forward to now – we’ve got rid of around 90-95% of our possessions (either sold, donated or given away) and live in a zero-bedroom flat.
It hasn’t been an easy road… The process was long, gruelling and, at times, seemed never-ending. But I wouldn’t change a thing – we’re happier, living more consciously and free from the trap of consumerism.
What inspired you?
A random article on the internet about people living out of backpacks first peaked my interest and then it just all went from there. One day, we had an ‘aha!’ moment. From there, we knew we couldn’t continue how we were.
What difference has it made?
Minimalism has allowed me to strip back to the basics, reassess my life and focus my energy on what really makes me happy. It was eye-opening to re-examine my relationship with my material possessions. I found out that I kept and hung onto things ‘just in case’ I may need them later.
Now, I make active choices about what I bring into my home. I also don’t really have the urge to buy anything anymore. Everything I own serves a specific purpose and that’s brought a sense of calmness to my life. Until we started getting rid of our things, I didn’t realise the impact being surrounded by clutter had taken on my mental health.
As we minimalised and cleared our space, I felt like a weight was being lifted. I’m less anxious, have more time to focus on hobbies and, with less choice, it’s a lot quicker to get ready in the mornings too!
It is possible to do an inventory of your house?
100%! At the height of our decluttering, I felt overwhelmed and like I was drowning in stuff – I would never want to get into that position again.
I’ll use my kitchen as an example – we basically have two of everything – one for each of us. For example, we have: 2x small plates, 2x cereal bowls, 2x pasta bowls, 2x tumblers, 2x wine glasses and 2x mugs. We have 3 large plates – just in case we break or need an extra one.
We don’t really have the space to entertain guests and we socialise outside the house so our minimal tableware has never been an issue. If we were to ever host a big Christmas dinner, we’re not opposed to asking people to bring their own.
If we move into somewhere bigger, we may look at upgrading to 4 of each but we’re happy as we are for the time being.
What did you let go of first?
Clothes. In total, I donated or sold around 40 bin bags of clothing, shoes and bags.
I hate seeing waste and it upsets me how fast fashion is making the clothes we wear almost disposable. When I do buy clothes I opt for second-hand and support ethical and sustainable brands where possible. While I don’t own many items of clothing anymore (around 20 garments) I try to buy versatile pieces and have created a capsule wardrobe around them.
Did you find anything hard to let go of?
I was absolutely adamant about keeping every one of my books when we started. As a real bibliophile I got great satisfaction from seeing a stacked bookcase in a room. However, as we got rid of more things, my mindset began to shift. I realised that I rarely re-read anything and the books were taking unnecessary space.
I ended up reducing my collection from 250 books to only 15 of my favourites. As more months passed I got rid of all of them entirely; I invested in a Kindle and support our local libraries instead.
Do you now miss anything?
What lessons have your learnt?
‘Things’ are not responsible for your happiness (sorry, advertising companies,,,) – you are.
I think there’s also real truth to the old saying about the ‘tidy house, tidy mind.’
Do you live by any rules in terms of how to live?
We live simply and look for the value in non-material things. It’s always good to take time out to be grateful for what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t and comparing yourself to others.
Since downsizing and no longer spending money on things we don’t need, we’ve adopted a much more frugal lifestyle. This has helped us to save for a house deposit and a wedding – both will be minimalistic, of course!
What is your goal?
We don’t have any plans to change our lifestyle.
We’re getting married in a few months. It’ll be a small casual do – nothing fancy and definitely no white dress. All we care about is having the people we love there to celebrate and good food. Over the next year, I’d like to get more involved in the zero-waste movement too.
How do others react to your lifestyle choice?
Some people are intrigued but most struggle to accept it (I mean, who doesn’t want to buy stuff?!) or they find it very extreme. At the start, I think both our families thought we were depriving ourselves or just super skint but they’ve got used to it now. Christmas and birthdays can be awkward times of the year, but friends and family now accept and respect our choices such as our ‘edible-only’ gift policy last year.
What advice would you give to other aspiring minimalists?
Minimalism means different things to different people so don’t compare yourself to others. I know that our approach and that (basically) living in one room will not be for everyone, but I do think that most people could benefit in a small way from decluttering – even if it’s just organising that kitchen drawer filled with random junk!
I’d also advise people to really question whether they need something before buying it. By doing this you’ll end up saving money and it’ll stop you from bringing useless stuff into your home.
When decluttering things will probably get worse before they get better but DON’T GIVE UP. It’s a tough road and definitely isn’t a quick fix but the effort will be worth it in the end.
Trust me, you won’t regret it.
If you’re interested in frugal living and want more info on Holly & Ben’s minimalist journey visit frugalfoxes.home.blog