The expat and the art of minimalist living

Everything changed when I first moved out of my childhood home.

I was getting ready to study abroad in the UK and couldn’t decide what to carry. In retrospect, I realized that I walked with way too much luggage in the first place, including a cooking pot and a heavy wool winter coat that I could have just bought over there.

During my time in the UK, I moved around a lot. In my first year, I moved out of my residence hall at the end of each term, which meant getting rid of junk I’d accumulated during the term, putting the rest in storage, and moving into temporary accommodation for the holidays. I also lived in four different locations over my four years in the Midlands and London. It was a pain in the @rse but I learned a lot about what I could survive on. All I really needed was my laptop, some clothes, and a bank card.

Moving to Japan was another kettle of fish. This time I wasn’t moving solo but with my husband. When we got there, we soon realized that we had brought way too much stuff: clothes and shoes not suited to Japan’s weather and conservative culture, too many books, and too many cosmetics/OTC medication. We soon learned that all we needed was a minimalist wardrobe and money since we could buy a lot of stuff over there. It was just a matter of figuring out the kanji.

Does this spark joy in my life?

Today, I’ve learned to appreciate the art of minimalist living. After reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, I appreciate it even more. I’ve learned to view everything I own with a very critical eye and always ask Kondo’s magic question: does this spark joy in my life? If it does, I keep. If it doesn’t, I toss.

I’ve discarded clothes I don’t wear. I’ve got rid of travel souvenirs and other mementos I’ve been holding on to for ages for no real reason except nostalgia (postcards, letters, greeting cards, photos, ticket stubs, travel journals, receipts, call cards etc.). I’ve stopped stockpiling food, cosmetics, and drugs that expire before I can use them. I no longer buy paperback/hardcover books and have instead started reading digital editions or borrowing from friends and libraries. That has been a relief because many times, I would only read a book once, creating a very dusty and cluttered bookcase.

Getting rid of these things was not only mentally liberating but also spiritually uplifting because now I’m surrounded by things I actually use or cherish. This kind of minimalist living really helps if you live a nomadic life or are considering a move abroad in the near future. For 2018, maybe you can try the KonMari method to cut the dead weight from your past and breathe newness into your present and future.

What do you think about Marie Kondo’s method? Share in the comments!



19 thoughts on “The expat and the art of minimalist living

  1. I’ve been working at decluttering but it is a process, especially because as I declutter, I want to make sure I recycle things properly. While I have been getting better at it things I don’t need, I do find that things easily pile up and I could be working towards this goal more.

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  2. I am so guilty of this – having too many stuff. I even have difficulty packing light for holidays. I need to get my hands on that book. It seems like a helpful resource so I can get a good perspective on how to practice minimalism in my own home (and life in general).

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  3. It really is amazing how freeing decluttering is. I feel so much lighter everytime I get rid of something. And it’s so true that with traveling, many people carry way too much stuff. So many people are amazed that the hubby and I travel full time with a carry-on and backpack each. But it’s all we need! And not to have to drag all that stuff around the world! There’s nothing like the minimal lifestyle!

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  4. I’d definitely like to try and minimalise my lifestyle. Like you said, so many of those travel souvenirs you buy just end up in the trash! Will really try out this method and see how far I get!

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  5. I think I have to read this book asap as I am actually moving from my flat in London to Poland and I don’t even wanna think how I am gonna pack everything. Its not the first time I am moving countries but this time was different, Iam older now so I was collecting more stuff like souvenirs from my travels or decorations etc to make the flat pretty and its gonna be really hard to say goodbye to some stuff. I dont think I could ever be a minimalist ! 🙂

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    1. I think Marie Kondo’s book should be required reading for anyone who’s moving for a significant period of time. She really makes you choose what you want to take with you.


  6. I think I need to get this book! Decluttering and organising definitely is an art and I can imagine the Japanese are among the best at it (maybe next to the Scandinavians). And we all pack too much initially until we realise we can always purchase things overseas. I totally agree about it being mentally freeing too. And I also find when there is less clutter around, I am more motivated and also mentally more focused too.

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  7. I would love to read this book! I have moved to the UK almost 5 years ago and I’ve been in the same house for 4 years. In a month I am moving to Spain and I am panicking about what I am going to do with all my things, especially the furniture that I paid a lot of money for. I think I need someone to help me, as I am too attached of everything. I need an impartial opinion on what should come with me and what not…

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  8. I’ve heard of this method before! It intrigues me, but as a full-time traveler, I kind of live it by default–anything that can’t fit on our backs or be stuffed into my dad’s attic has already been jettisoned! Interesting that you said you got rid of travel souvenirs because of nostalgia–that’s exactly why I keep mine! Of course, I don’t have many–maybe 5-6 overall–but I do love seeing them when we visit “home”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you’re already living the minimalist way but Marie Kondo would definitely have something to say about you storing stuff in your dad’s attic. LOL. She’s very strict.


  9. I love minimalist living, especially incorporating it into my travels. It makes travelling solo so much easier as it’s easier to move around. It also helps you cut down on bringing unnecessary stuff so your things are easier to keep track of.

    Liked by 1 person

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