I met Alex before she relocated to Seattle, about five years ago. She had moved from LA and found herself in Ballard. I was so excited to have a friend that lived so close by and we found ourselves enjoying many tea dates, sharing tips on how we saved money, working on our negotiating skills, and what we were doing to save for retirement.
Last year we both started exploring simplifying our lives and our clutter, when she invited me to join her in an online course, A Simple Year. I love nerding out with her on anything from tidying tips to budget hacks so joining this course connected us with others who have a similar mindset. She’s come a long way from her previous life in LA to what she prioritizes today as far as the material things she holds onto and what her longer term goals are. I think her story will resonate with people because so many of us can relate to that "stuck" feeling in a job or having anxiety about the physical clutter to the "obligations" clutter in our everyday lives.
During the day, Alex is hard at work as a controller. She spends her free time hiking, playing darts, enjoying craft cocktails, and cuddling Maxine, the most adorable Bichon-poodle rescue you will ever meet.
How did you get into slowing down and simple living?
It started with my anxiety. When I started simplifying, I was also going on anxiety medication. I had a lot of stress at a job that paid well but was detrimental to my health. I wanted to feel more in control and step away from “needing” that job.
What first introduced you to simple/slow living?
I started focusing on early retirement and found the online FIRE community (Financial Independence Retire Early). I stumbled across several blogs where people were focusing on building wealth, having experiences, and really living life in a way that they wanted to rather than in a way that someone told them they should.
Who’s in this community?
They are a group of a bunch of different bloggers. Some share their whole financial picture (how much they make, what they’ve saved, their targets) while others show graphs that indicate where they’re at. The others, like the Frugalwoods, focus on how much they are saving to live their best, frugal life.
What’s the best part/what have you found to be the most helpful from this community?
Especially after living in LA, the drive for materialism and acceptance for a certain standard of life - it was nice to find a group of people that didn’t want that. That there were other people like me, looking for something similar.
It was so “keeping up with the Joneses” kind of lifestyle and here in Seattle, I could have a fresh start. That the car I drive wouldn’t be representative of my worth as a person. Moving up here let me reexamine my life. What I wanted to do, what I wanted to be, what kind of life I wanted to have.
I still had a lot of stuff [when I moved here], not very practical stuff. I mean, you saw my old shoe closet - it was ridiculous!
What have been some of the positive changes you have made as a result of simplifying?
I don’t feel as stuck. I have less attachment to the stuff. It’s no longer a reflection of me, it’s just things.
I was able to cut down (slightly) my standard of living so I could take a more fulfilling job. I also phased off of the anxiety medication.
My partner moved in and there was totally room for all his stuff. I didn’t have to do anything special to prepare for this. We didn’t have any of those arguments that people have when they combine households.
Have you gotten any kind of push back from others around these major changes and living a different way of life?
Some people think I’m crazy for wanting to retire early. I just don’t buy the latest model of something when it comes out because I have this bigger goal that I’m working toward.
Part of me gets too focused on the retiring early so I can live my life, and as a result, sometimes I don’t take as much vacation time as I should. It feels like it would be a delay in my goal (spending the money on the vacation). I’m not at the place of Frugalwoods yet as far as what I spend on experiences.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to simplify?
Marie Kondo asks her readers “who do you want to be in your space?” I feel like “who do you want to be in your life?” is a good question to ask yourself. What you spend your money and time on - does it spark joy? Friendships, obligations, stuff - if they don’t bring your joy, you should get rid of them.
Keeping that question in mind, I definitely say no to a lot more [invitations, requests, obligations] now.
Do you consider yourself a minimalist?
I don’t know that I consider myself a minimalist. I have too much stuff to be considered a classic minimalist. Part of that is that I live with someone who isn’t a minimalist and has more stuff than I do.
I like to focus on living light and have been following Living Light by Coco.
What kind of stuff would you never let go of?
Camping gear, cross country skis, the activity-based things. Oh, and the shoes I wore on our first date. I haven’t worn them in three years because they hurt my feet too much (I danced in them for about six hours) but that’s the one sentimental thing I hold on to because it makes me so happy to see them in my closet.
If you want to follow along with Alex’s adventures in living a simpler life and enjoying the outdoors, you can find her on Instagram or YouTube. You’ll get a healthy dose of nature, original music by her partner, Mike Thornhill, and cameos from Maxine.