Black Minimalists is an interview series which features people of color on their simple living journeys.
When and why did you start your minimalist journey?
In 2013, at the age of 26, my eight year relationship and engagement came to an end. As the saying goes, "everything happens for a reason". I was blessed to have that negative experience spark a mental, physical, and spiritual detox of nearly everything in my life.
During that period I downsized my possessions, friends, makeup collection, and more. I noticed I had more free time by having less junk, toxic friends, and stress cluttering up my thoughts and space. I found new ways to fill my time including joining a gym, working more to pay off debt from college, and making new (also strengthening old) positive friendships.
Fast forward a couple years and I found myself enjoying being newly wed to a wonderful husband in the Virginia Beach area. Away from the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C.'s city life, I began wondering how could I take things a step further in my journey.
I wanted to prepare healthier meals without as much time in the kitchen and also streamline our housework so that we could spend more time making great memories. We were also working towards living a debt-free lifestyle via living simply and spending less so we could pay things off faster.
My curiosity and "simple living" blog search lead me to YouTube and then to discover the Minimalist Lifestyle movement. I also discovered the Zero Waste and Tiny House movements around that time in addition to associated bloggers, TV shows, and books. I haven't looked back since!
What lessons have you learned since going minimalist?
Nothing is as good as living debt-free feels. The day my husband and I paid off all our debt, we felt like a major weight was lifted off our shoulders. Bye bye stress and hello saving for rainy days!
I buy an abundance of things that I think I need or intend to use but just don't. I learned just how much money we waste in specific areas on things we never actually use.
For my husband, this includes cheaper yet less effective Magic The Gathering Cards, extra work uniforms, junk/processed food, eating out, fitness gear, supplements, and trendy wardrobe pieces. He quickly learned via the MinsGame that quality is better than quantity and has since been purchasing a small quantity of high-end products and game cards instead.
For me, this included cheap kitchen tools, and other cheap stuff in general that I would have to keep replacing, also low quality yet sometimes high cost clothes and shoes.
Lastly, we realized we must do the "one in one out" rule as it truly works. If something new is purchased I get rid of the old item it replaced via donation or recycling. Why keep outdated technology or wardrobe to collect dust when you've already upgraded to the new? I now keep a donation bag in the closet so unwanted items no longer linger around. My keeping of these items only means someone else won't get to enjoy them so out they go!
What are you goals in living simply?
Living life to the fullest. Be consistent... it's easy to fall back into old patterns and once you do it can take a while to get back to where you were. Be less stressed and irritable. Less negative emotions. More positivity. More moving forward. More bettering myself and others around me. Less consumerism. Less being concerned with the system and society. Making more of my own opinions and path in life. These goals will keep me on track and encourage a healthier life all around.
Has minimalism impacted other areas of your life?
YES! I am currently living debt free after having over $23,000 in debt just one year ago. I am also mostly stress free because with reduced expenses I can now completely freelance and take only the jobs that excite me or will further my career vs. just taking whatever will pay the bills but will drive me crazy lol!
Despite making less money a year than the past, I have traveled more in one year of being minimalist that I did in over three years of running the rat race. Having low expenses means most of the money I make is extra money to invest, travel, donate, etc.
I'm happier and am in the best health of my life!
What if any surprises or challenges have you encountered?
My husband lost 20 pounds since I simplified our kitchen tools and groceries which was a pleasant surprise. Especially because he still eats the processed food on his Navy ship for one meal a day half the week.
Another major surprise was the volume of gifts I had that I didn't use or like. Allowing them to take up mental and physical space out of obligation to keep them created a less organized closet and home. Just getting rid of those kind of items alone reduced our cleanup time dramatically. Getting less gifts that I won't use is still a challenge and dance of being grateful while not allowing clutter to build up again. I still haven't figured a graceful way around this.
What mindset changes have you experienced?
I totally changed the way I see food and shopping. I, like most people, believed that shopping at places like whole foods and eating a plant based diet would be way too expensive and boring. I even subscribed to the local newspaper so that I could coupon packaged food thinking this was the only way to save. Boy was I wrong! I don't get sick anymore due to minimalist diet.
Shopping the bulk bins at Whole Foods in an attempt to be more zero-waste means we are eating a plant based diet with nearly no processed foods. While we still eat fish and occasionally meat they are a thought of as a treat almost like one would see chocolate vs. being the main focus of meals.
I still coupon things occasionally and have discovered apps to get rebates on healthy choices, but I really have to ignore friends and remind myself that fruit and veggies purchased whole (instead of pre-cut) and in season are the cheapest option.
It's easy to get lazy with cooking via buying processed options and not want to cut veggies every week but I pay for it later by not feeling as well and having less money in the bank. Not only can we eat three healthy meals a day for two at under two hundred dollars a month, we also will save money later in life by having less medical bills. I also used to feel awkward bringing lunch to work when everyone else eats out, but I quickly realized they don't care and neither should I.
What advice do you have for someone interested in simplifying her life?
Start today! It's great to research but don't worry about what others are doing too much if you haven't started your journey. The easiest thing to do is the MinsGame and you'd be surprised just how much junk you really have to get rid of while playing.
If something like that is too much for you, try getting rid of one thing before bed or when you first wake up everyday. It can be a single sock with no match, an old towel, a piece of clothing that doesn't fit, or anything. The goal is to just start now.
The more you get rid of, the lighter you will feel. Before you know it decluttering and simplifying your life will be addictive, and eventually it won't require as much effort.
Also allow yourself to enjoy the process and share it with your biggest supporters. You will find what started as getting rid of junk or lessening your time in the kitchen will quickly lead to you simplifying so much more.
Where we can learn more about you?
I love to write about minimalism and offer free tips at my photography website: indiajackson.com
I am also a social media addict with Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook being my favorites and can be reached via:
@theindiajackson on most other social media
Anything you would like to add?
Living simply and being free will help you learn a lot about who you are, what you thought you should be in the past, and what you want for your future. Embrace what you discover and further develop who you are, but always be true to yourself. Most of all collect more wonderful memories instead of cheap things! You will thank yourself later.
Photos courtesy of India Jackson.