For many years, I was holding on. I was holding on to a high-flying full-time career that demanded nights in hotels and hours on planes. I was holding onto a spacious, prewar apartment on the sunny side of Copenhagen and the idea of us as a successful family. My husband and I were desperately holding our family life together with the help of cleaners, delivery services, bribes (for the kids), and paid childcare.
The weight of it all made me collapse, but when I found the strength to get up again, it wasn't to pick up where I'd left. Baby step by baby step, we moved towards a slower kind of life, one that allowed me to work fewer hours and spend more time parenting our children. Together, we created a vision of a life that we wanted, and worked to eliminate factors that didn't serve this goal. Material status symbols. Excessive travel. Eating meat. Owning a nice car.
Our apartment became a one-way ticket that would allow us to walk into a completely new existence. We'd bought it in the years following the financial crash and back then, it was run-down. After we'd spent the better part of a year cleaning, painting, and renovating, we stood back in awe as the apartment's original beauty wooed us. Even though the place was over a hundred years old, it felt like we had created this space ourselves. The gratitude I felt towards the apartment for sheltering us during the time when our girls were fragile infants was so large it was almost tangible. It was difficult to let go of it because I felt I had merged with its walls.
But let go I did. When property prices peaked, we put it on the market and it sold within a week. In three months' time, we were going to be homeless. I felt like I was in free-fall and our house-hunt intensified. There's no beating around the bush: it was a stressful, confusing time. Eventually, we found brand-new, minimalist townhouse in the countryside. Our mortgage halved. Our expenses too, since most of the props we'd needed to stay afloat in the city were no longer necessary. I could home school our girls in the wake of Corona without having to multitask and do a corporate job, too. And I could carve out time for my passion: my fiction writing. Two years later, I've published short fiction in several literary journals and anthologies, and I've completed my first novel. I've distilled my decade-long marketing career into the niche I love best: creating stories. I'm able to work as a freelancer from my sun-drenched kitchen table, picking the girls up after school and having their friends over to play. In short, I get to be present. I get to really know our children's lives from the inside, and I have time to reflect. I have time to just be.
In return, we live small. I buy all of my clothes—and most of what our children wear—used. In the evenings, my husband and I try out new vegetarian recipes. When the kids are asleep, I make packed lunches while listening to The Minimalists Podcast or meet a friend for a long walk (our tiny dog is particularly fond of this activity). On weekends, we pack picnics and hop on our bikes. And this makes for a perfectly full life.
Daring to let go and take the fall is the most rewarding, daring thing I've done. Knowing there were others who had walked this path to minimalism before helped me take the leap. And the best thing is, I get to live this new life with my family, while our children are still young.