Earlier this year we were approached by Tricia Mitchell – the globetrotter behind the award-winning Travels with Tricia, co-founder of Eloquence, and freelance writer featured in Frommer’s, Fodor’s, and International Living.
She was working on an article for The Savvy Retiree, emphasizing the financial impact and advantages of simplifying your life. She wanted to feature us, along with Courtney Carver, the minimalism expert behind Be More with Less and creator of Project 333.
Tricia and her husband Shawn live and work internationally, ranging from Europe to Asia to Africa. Over the years we have chatted about our nomadic lives – both theirs and ours – and how often our paths have criss-crossed over continents and cultures. They are also on a quest to simplify their lives, and she knew our backstory.
Before writing her article, Tricia asked us to answer these 5 thought-provoking questions about how simplifying and becoming more minimalist had changed our lives.
1. How has your trend toward minimalism improved your life?
Our journey to minimalism began with a quest for F.I.R.E. – trying to figure out how we could become “financially independent” so we could “retire early.”
We were two hard-charging executives in our mid 30s, and had just returned to the US from working in Khartoum, Sudan for two years. Living in Africa changed us, and the experience humbled us. We knew that we wanted to quit our corporate jobs, simplify our lives, and work for ourselves doing what we loved.
“It would take us five years to realize that goal,
but along the way we discovered minimalism.” –Terri
In order to save money we embraced budgeting and downsizing with a vengeance, realizing that money we didn’t spend equaled money we didn’t have to earn. If we cut way back, we could get by on considerably less. So we did.
Minimalism has changed our lives immensely. It’s enabled us to travel the world, spend time with our families, and help others – our Big 3 Goals.
We’re embarrassed to admit that at one point in our lives, our possessions would not fit in the biggest moving van available. Since discovering minimalism, we’ve progressively downsized from a 3,000 sq. ft. house to a 700 sq. ft. condo. In fact, we recently sold that condo, and to our amazement the buyers wanted not just the condo, but all the furnishings, too! From pots and pans to lamps and loveseats, they bought it all.
So, other than a few personal items and special pieces of art, on the day of closing we walked out with just our suitcases. For the first time since our university days, we moved in our car – and it felt fantastic.
3. Do you have an estimate of how much money you have saved by having a more minimalist lifestyle?
Wow! Great question … and tricky to answer. We decided to pursue our minimalist experiment 25 years ago. Like many others we downsized everything – from homes and cars to wardrobes and furnishings. Our goal was to simplify our lives, reduce expenses, and become financially independent. We succeeded and estimate we save approximately $10,000 – $15,000 a year. So a savings of over $250,000 over those 25 years has amazed us. We never dreamed that could happen.
4. For many people, the idea of getting started with downsizing is a daunting task. Do you have any tips?
These 5 tips helped us on our road to downsizing:
- Create your own minimalist formula. When it comes to decluttering and downsizing, nobody approaches it the same way. For example, many people think their home has to be stark to be a minimalist. You know – sofa, chair, lamp … that’s it! Not us. We like some books, art, and flowers, too. Friends describe the atmosphere as calm. It’s our version of minimalism and it works for us.
- It’s not about depriving yourself. It’s about making conscious choices. Keep what you love; then donate or sell the rest. Spend what you need to, but not more.
- It’s a process that feeds on itself. The more you downsize one aspect of your life, the more it motivates you to do it in others.
- It’s not a contest. Whether you have 100 things or 1,000 – the only prize at the end is your personal satisfaction.
- You will falter and sometimes fail. Use the experience to learn more about yourself and your habits, then try again.
5. Has a minimalist lifestyle allowed you to travel more? How much do you travel in an average year? How long do you usually spend in one place?
For many years the main goal of our minimalist lifestyle was to travel for 6-9 months a year. We used our skills as home renovators to generate income to travel. We’d buy a run-down house in the US, in a city we wanted to explore. Then we’d fix it up, sell it, and use the profit to go around the world.
“Our families smiled and said we were homeless;
we preferred to think of it as home-free.”
We loved our RTWs. The first one was very well-planned with all tickets purchased in advance. But we realized that approach didn’t afford us the flexibility we craved. So our second RTW was decided on the fly. We let our whims carry us where they may. It was fabulous! Three of our favorite stops were totally unplanned – Jordan, Sri Lanka, and Laos, spending a month in each.
After years of a nomadic existence we decided that we wanted to be based in the US, but still go traveling anytime we want. Now we take month-long trips several times a year, and we’re considering another RTW.
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Tricia’s excellent article, Set Yourself Free: Simplify Your Life and Save Tens of Thousands, appeared in International Living’s newest publication, The Savvy Retiree earlier this year. The site is for subscribers only, but they graciously granted us permission to reprint the article below. If you’re not yet familiar with the publication, please check it out for great articles.
We would like to issue a huge thank you to Tricia Mitchell for including us in the article. Tricia is a traveler, photographer, and writer extraordinaire. She says, “As an explorer, I am passionate about the power of citizen diplomacy – the idea that everyday people can represent their home countries and promote positive intercultural exchange.” We couldn’t agree more, Tricia. Visit her at Travels with Tricia.
And we want to tell Courtney Carver how honored we are to be featured with her. If we were to recommend only one minimalist blogger to follow, it would be Courtney. We’re huge fans of her gentle, thoughtful, and persuasive brand of minimalism; and we’re devoted advocates of Project 333 – her creative approach to managing a simple wardrobe. Visit her at Be More with Less.
We already know that so many of you out there have simplified your lives – or are in the process of figuring it out. So how would you answer any, or all, of Tricia’s 5 questions?
Photo Credits: 1. svklimkin 2,4. Ellen Lasher