My Journey to Minimalism



Growing up, I could never have imagined that one day, I would tell the story of choosing to live with less. I grew up in the eighties and during that decade, I was five to fifteen years old. It was ALL about big, big hair, multiple necklaces, bangles, and ear piercings, hair accessories, ripped jeans, stone wash, acid wash and neon colour...It certainly was a decade of more, more and more!


The eighties for my parents was the biggest financial struggle of their lives. New Zealand in the eighties meant mortgage interest rates were 20% - for context, we pay about 3-4% today. Inflation rose significantly, unemployment increased, GST (a 12.5% goods and services tax) was introduced, and the Wall Street market collapsed.


During this tough time, my Mum made a lot of my clothes from material purchased at reduced prices because it was last season's colour and/or fabric. So when my peers were wearing blue velvet dresses with ribbon trim, I was sporting brown corduroy knickerbockers with buttons. Of course, I understand now my Mum was incredibly resourceful and she is undoubtedly very skilled, but at the time I didn't appreciate those things.


Like most teens, I had low self esteem and a multitude of insecurities. I just wanted to fit in and to do that, I bought into the belief you needed to own the same "stuff"as your peers. I believed confidence came from material possessions and status, I didn't know it was an inside job.


When I was 13, I started earning money from two part-time jobs. I babysat during the school holidays and weekends and after school I worked as a dishwasher in a local cafe. I was never taught how to handle money so I saved up to spend! I was able to purchase the "stuff" my friend's parents bought for them. But the initial excitement each purchase brought, quickly vanished, because it was simply never enough. It took me months to save up for the ghetto-blaster my friends would be gifted as a surprise one weekend. There was no way I could compete with an adult's full-time income! Through adult lens, it is laughable I even tried.


Five to fifteen years old is an impressionable time for a child. All I wanted is what my friend's had, which seemed like endless everything. Somewhere in this period of time, I had become attached to objects because they satisfied certain emotional needs. The frustration of not getting what I desired was tied to a status I yearned for. This belief continued to become engrained into young adulthood as I moved out of home and into full time employment, in affluent Queenstown.


After a long term relationship ended at 22 years old, I sold everything I owned and joined my friend on her round-the-world backpacking adventure. I spent the nineties and early 2000s travelling Australia, Canada, the UK, Thailand, and Sth Africa. I ended up settling in the UK with my now husband and despite spending years backpacking and having everything I owned fit neatly into a pack, I still wasn't content. Because the lesson had yet to be learned.


For me, living in the UK was just like being that little girl with her brown corduroy knickerbockers, standing out amongst blue velvet dresses. Not having enough money to rip out our outdated kitchen (which the Brits do every 10 years just to "update" it). Not having enough money to replace our car every one to three years. Not having enough money to buy new clothes every month. Not having enough money to go abroad at least once a year and most definitely every summer. The UK is still a class-based society where having is more important than being. When we became parents in 2005 I knew we couldn't keep up. I knew this wasn't the environment I could be happy living in forever. So when my first-born was three, my husband and I made the move back to my home town in New Zealand.


The first ten years back home were not easy. We had to start again (buy a house, a car, etc). Early 2009 I sunk thousands of dollars into my Life Coaching business and three weeks later found out I was pregnant. My second child's pregnancy resulted in hospitalisation, the birth was traumatic and he was premature. He spent his early years very poorly, requiring various medications, multiple times a day. My fledgling business was going okay despite all this, but I fell apart keeping it all together. I sacrificed my health in the quest for success and the stress led to a chronic illness diagnosis in 2013. With everything I had endured, I finally had to let my business go and make my health a priority. I felt like the biggest failure and decided that being a business owner simply wasn't for me. When I felt better two years later (yes, seriously, two years), I got a job (which I still have and enjoy).


My job is within school hours and term time, allowing me the best of both worlds - being there for my boys, whilst simultaneously allowing me to be 'Kirstie' and enjoy utilising my organisational skills . During the school holidays, I plan fun outings and activities with the boys and now they are older, I can leave them to it and systematically "declutter" our house. From one end of the house to the other, everything is taken out, refolded or reorganised, deep cleaned and then put back.


I was growing more and more frustrated by the seemingly lack of storage in our modest home. Despite the "decluttering" efforts, everything looked better and it felt good, but we never seemed to gain space. A few week's later it was back to the way it was. I started looking at larger homes for sale. "We need more space, we need to move" I repeatedly told my husband. I had a real estate agent come and evaluate our home so we would know how much to add on to our mortgage. Part of the desire to move into a brand new, bigger home was driven by the little girl in her brown knickerbockers, envying what others had.


Fast forward to a few days before Christmas 2019, when I was out shopping for my boys' Christmas presents. I impulsively purchased a book called Simply Spaced and it was in reading the first few pages, I was overcome by a feeling the book gave me. It was one of total calm and ease.


It dawned on me when I was reflecting on the previous decade and looking forward to the new one, the life I really wanted to create. I wanted the contentment from the sense of space displayed in the beautiful images in Monica Leed's book.


Since then, I have scrolled through the internet, reading articles and blogs, watching YouTube videos, finding new accounts to like on Facebook, and to follow on Instagram and Pinterest...you name it, I have probably read it, watched it, and fawned over the images of it! The 'it' I am referring to is minimalism.


So today, in my forties, in a new decade, with a husband and two children, I am striving for LESS. Less stuff, less overwhelm, less frustration, less anxiety. It has been (at times) a painful journey to get here. I have had to unpick tightly woven old beliefs and behaviours. But for the first time ever, I feel a complete sense of freedom and ease.


This is my journey, exploring minimalism and what it means to me and how I apply it to my life. I hope you will join me.


Kirstie xo


© 2020 by Kirstie Gillon-Wood, The Minimalist Kiwi

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