When I first introduced raw foods into my diet nine years ago, I expected to experience positive changes in my physical appearance and the way I felt internally. I had hoped to achieve weight loss, an increase in my energy levels and, most of all, clearing of the cystic acne I had been plagued with for years. Within a few months, all these changes happened in my body, and I was ecstatic. It seemed as if the physical benefits to eating an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables were endless! What I never expected, though, was how drastically both my mindset and life would change as a result of eating raw foods.
As I simplified my diet through eating whole foods, I found that I thoroughly enjoyed eating simply. There were no complicated ingredients, recipes or side effects from the foods I was eating, and I wanted to translate these same ideas to my day-to-day life. I discovered I had the desire to simplify other areas of my life, namely ridding myself of the material possessions I owned. What I truly wanted was to experience less stress and more freedom in my life, just like I had with my diet. It was then that I began researching and stumbled upon the concept of minimalism.
Minimalism is living in its simplest form. One definition is this:
Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment and freedom.
Seeing as these were the main concepts that attracted me to raw foods, it stood to reason that I may one day transition to a full minimalistic lifestyle, not only in regard to my diet.
So began my minimalist journey.
Over the past few years, I’ve slowly decreased the amount of material possessions I own. I chose to transition slowly because even though I no longer wanted to, I still felt an attachment to my belongings and often had a hard time getting rid of them. Make no mistake, even though minimalism sounds easy, the process of becoming minimalistic is much less so.
I began to travel, bringing only one bag with me. I backpacked around Canada, South America, Indonesia and spent a year living in Australia with only the bare necessities. From these experiences, I gained confidence, realizing that I really could survive with very few belongings. But the catch was, all my material possessions were still waiting for me at home. Even though I knew I could get by without them, I had to look within and ask myself whether I truly wanted to live without my “stuff.”
The issue with my possessions was that I let them define me. They held nostalgic memories, and I believed that they were responsible for making me feel happy. I dug deeper, challenging my beliefs, and came to realize that not only did my material items not bring me happiness, they often caused unnecessary feelings of stress, worry and overwhelm. I knew that if I wanted to feel more freedom and less stress, I needed to make some drastic changes. I needed to become a minimalist.
Bit by bit, I began selling off my possessions. The first step was the hardest to take, but as I gained momentum, ridding myself of one item at a time, I felt as if a weight was being lifted from my shoulders. I won’t sugarcoat it—he process of minimizing took months. Often I would reassess my belongings on a daily basis, asking myself questions like “Do I really need this?” and “Does this item bring me joy?” I would teeter back and forth with an item for days, finally deciding that I was ready to let it go. With each item I sold, I experienced a deeper sense of peace within myself.
The process may sound simple. Really, they’re only material goods that can easily be replaced, right? If only it was that easy! Often I felt like I was peeling back layer after layer of myself, redefining who I was, what I wanted from my life and what truly made me happy. In the end, I admitted to myself that it’s not material possessions that give value to my life. Real meaning is found through new experiences and the relationships I share with others. For someone who was once a shopaholic defined by what I owned, this was a profound transition.
Now I live with the intention of having rewarding experiences through traveling, volunteering and sharing my life with likeminded people. No longer do I have a towering pile of items that weigh me down. I feel free and unencumbered with my backpack on, camera in hand, exploring new places, cultures and living a life I once dreamed of.
Check out Tarah Millen’s transformation interview!