Forced minimalism

Those of you who know me know that I do love my things. Earlier this year, I embarked on a minimalism challenge where I tried to get rid of some of the excess “stuff” that cluttered my apartment and life (which you can read about herehere, and here).

Little did I know that that was just the appetizer for the extreme minimalism challenge that would be chosen/forced upon me mere months later, when I decided to up and move to England.

This is what my apartment looked like a few weeks ago:


Delightful right? I had hundreds of books, records, and accoutrement. In addition to this, I had a fully stocked kitchen, an extensive collection of clothes, shoes, and craft materials. In short, I had a full apartment that I loved.

So when I decided to make the move, my immediate response was:


(Cathy just GETS it sometimes!)

Over the summer, I have rid myself of probably 75% of the things I owned. At times it was an agonizing process of getting rid of things that I am fond of in order to make space for this new adventure.

How did I do?

Everything I own in the world fits in:


  • three duffle bags
  • A carry-on and personal item
  • A bike bag (carrying my beloved road bike)

Not shown:

  • a hiking bag filled with the essential camping gear (to be delivered by my bestie when she visits London)
  • A small collection of boxes and bins (I am very lucky to have patient parents who are willing to store several prized things like  old journals, photo albums, musical instruments, and a few choice house items for the next 4 years)

So, how does it feel?

It has been incredibly difficult to let go of things that I have accumulated over the years, and that I treasured in different ways. But, as you might expect, it has been quite freeing to untether myself from the stuff I drag around with me. This move has forced me to define the essential elements of a good life – what are my best and favourite things that will make my life better? I was tempted to squirrel away everything in storage at my parents place, but would have to remember that if I can live without it for 4 years, I probably don’t need it.

The second big lesson of this move was to realize that I have a lot of people in my life who say “let me know if you need any help” and mean it! I am not always very good at asking for help, but it was really clear as I faced the enormity of this task that I would need reinforcements. To successfully rid myself of most of my things, I called in my militant bestie who was able to SAY NO when I was clawing to keep stuff and my Ottawa army of pals who adopted many of my orphaned things and helped me shuttle the rest to the thrift shop and the garbage heap. It is always humbling to realize that I can’t do it all by myself, but leaning on others also make me realize that I have people to lean on when I am not able to handle everything myself, and that is really one of the most incredible things.

Even though it was a dramatic and sometimes traumatic process, as I lean against the pile of carefully-curated treasures that I will fly halfway across the world, I can say that it feels pretty damn good to have embraced minimalism. I know I will need to pick up a few necessities when I arrive in London, but I think this exercise has reinforced my desire to own less things, to treasure the things that I have, to treat them with love, but most of all, to cherish the people in my life that fill my life with richness that no amount of books and shoes and kitchen gadgets could bring.

Tomorrow I will board the plane with 175 lbs of stuff but also a new-found lightness stemming from this forced minimalism and the awareness that no matter where I go in the world, I have an army of lovely people that will help me tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

2 thoughts on “Forced minimalism

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