My husband, Randy, has always been a minimalist. He was born and raised in Grosse Point—an affluent suburb of Detroit full of 1920s mansions. His teens years were spent painting for many of the wealthy homeowners. He saw firsthand that money and excessive consumption don’t create happiness.
At a young age, he proactively sought out a simple life.
In his early twenties, Randy backpacked the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails carrying his belongings on his back for both six-month treks. Over the next decade he brought only what he could fit in the small bulkhead—food, water, and shelter on his many solo kayaking trips. In his thirties, he rode his bicycle through 20,000 kilometers of southeast Asia with only the essentials stored in his bike panniers. A simple life to Randy has always meant free time, solitude, and nature.
When Randy and I met close to twenty years ago, I was a maximalist.
When I traveled, I bought souvenirs. If someone knocked on my door selling magazines, I signed up rather than experience the discomfort of saying no. If I didn’t feel like doing laundry, I ran to Ann Taylor or Gap to pick up an outfit for the next day.
I talked and I talked and I talked. I’m an extravert with an insane amount of energy and I processed my thoughts out-loud, without pause, even if I was the only person in the room.
I asked Randy why he was drawn to me all those years ago. “You were complicated, but your light was bright,” he said.
Maybe he had secretly hoped he could turn me into a minimalist.
But it wasn’t Randy who did… it was me.
Three years ago, I stopped spontaneously buying things cold turkey. I knew I had to get rid of the clutter in my life when my stuff got in the way of a full life. After being more conscious about my belongings, I started to realize that less is so much more.
With a confident heart I walked away from 20 years of corporate paychecks to take a risk and try my hand at something that could potentially fill me in a way that no souvenir, magazine, or outfit could. I left my corporate career for a calling—and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I went back to school to become a functional medicine and nationally board-certified health and wellness coach.
With my last paycheck in the bank, it finally hit me that I had spent the last 2 decades distracting myself by consuming people, places, and things solely because I was so utterly unfulfilled in my career. I had climbed the ladder and had the title, the international travel, and the best cube in the row and was told I should be happy. I knew I was fooling everyone but myself.
Office politics had so stunted my creativity that even my husband, our two boys, and all my friends couldn't fill the void this fact left in me. As I went through the motions of my day-to-day life, I took out my credit card over and over again to buffer myself from the gnawing feelings that I should be doing something different—something more—with my life.
Leaving the corporate world shook me wide awake. I wanted my new business to be a success. I had no time for distractions that involved me pulling out my credit card just because. Not spending money felt strange at first, and I stumbled a bit. Out of necessity, though, I needed to embrace it. Learning the skill of leaving my credit card in my wallet is one of the greatest gifts I've ever received.
Today, instead of shopping, I schedule in white space. Over the last three years I've seen a connection between solitude and success. I'm still an enthusiastic extravert, but one who relishes quiet time to be able to think and come up with ideas. I talk, but I also listen. I'm figuring out the entrepreneurial world slowly but surely. While it's challenging, it's also exhilarating to be able to create the life I want to live. I used to think I wanted one of those beautiful Grosse Pointe mansions. Today, I know without a doubt, that I don't. I love my 1,300 square foot happy and healthy home. With my sights focused on making a meaningful difference, I no longer look to my boys, my husband, or my credit card to fill my void.
I like Randy's definition of a simple life. But I like my definition as well:
“A simple life to me means a full life focused on what matters most—appreciating simple moments with my family, and igniting my personal evolution and growth.”